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Summary:

Netflix saw close to 42 billion API requests in January. The company originally released its API with third-party developers and their quirky mashups in mind, but these days, most of these requests come from Netflix’s own apps on mobile and connected devices.

42

Updated. Netflix clocked close to 42 billion API requests per day in January, according to the company’s director of engineering Daniel Jacobson, who revealed the number as part of a presentation he recently gave to the Paypal engineering team. In his slides, Jacobson pointed out that the number of API requests has grown 70-fold in just two years, from 600 million in January of 2010 to 41.7 billion in January of 2012.

Providing an API that is resilient enough to handle these kinds of demands is not a small feat, and Jacobson’s slides reveal some of the principles behind the architecture used for the task. However, there’s an even bigger story to this: The sole reason that Netflix’s API has gotten so popular in the last two years is that the company’s service is seeing huge amounts of traffic from connected devices.

Netflix originally built its API with third-party developers in mind, which used it to build websites and apps to manage one’s DVD queue and similar things. However, the Netflix engineering team eventually realized that it could use the very same API to bring Netflix to devices like the Roku, the PS3 and the Xbox. To see how much of an impact that decision had, check out where API requests came from in 2008:

Compare that with API requests in 2011:

Guess which segment Netflix is focusing on these days? Exactly:

Check out Jacobson’s entire presentation below:

Netflix API – Presentation to PayPal

View more presentations from Daniel Jacobson
Image courtesy of Flickr user kevin dooley.
  1. It just goes to show if you lack to resources to diversify you offering out the outset, build an API and allow other users build upon the ecosystem for you. When you’ve grown up some you can revisit the decision and dog food your own API and build out the platform yourself.

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