August 11, 2011 Hernán Ciudad

Last Wednesday, our new API officially entered private beta, swinging the doors open to early adopters. To prepare for the big day, we tech elves were busy getting the API to a state where, while still not bug-free, it would be functional. And now our adventurous beta testers are helping us identify remaining bugs and performance bottlenecks.

On top of the work to get the interface part of our API locked down (view the documentation), we have also been focusing on converting the application to use this new API. We are, to use a less-than-appetizing phrase, eating our own dog food. We’ve standardized the way data is handled by the system, so that when we build a new feature for the app, we automatically get an API version of the feature that we can open to the public. To those who have used our legacy web services offering, and have had to work with the limited functionality it provides, you understand how important it is to ensure that all users of Emma, be they via the API or the UI, have access to the most complete set of tools we offer. This also means the API calls our customers have access to are the same calls my coworkers and I must develop against. So, if a call doesn’t return correct data, or isn’t performant, we will feel the headaches just as you do. And nothing motivates a developer to improve their code faster than making them actually use it.

I hear some of you asking, “I only use the web interface and don’t really care about APIs or building my own Emma at home, so what’s it in for me?” Quite a bit, actually. However, if we’ve done our job right, not much that you’ll see. Not initially, at least. Redesigning the architecture has taught us a lot about the challenges of the existing system, and the new system avoids those altogether. From the way members and groups are stored to the way emails are sent and tracked, the new systems focuses on simplicity and extensibility. So, as we start to roll out the new Emma to all of our customers, you’ll go on using Emma just as you always do, only noticing that the app is more responsive, and that your mailings are delivered even faster. The real fun will happen later as our new system design will facilitate the addition of new features, something the current design makes more difficult to accomplish at the pace we’d like.

So far we’ve only invited about 25 people into the private beta, but it is already yielding some fantastic feedback, uncovering bugs and giving us a slightly different point of view on what some of our power users need in order to integrate Emma into their own application. If you’re interested in joining the private beta group and test driving the new API, or the updated Emma built on top of it, please visit the beta tester signup form.

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