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Open APIs – let them eat cake says Expedia Affiliate Network

By Travolution
April 4, 2012 02:57 PM GMT

Expedia Affiliate Network has seen a 40% year-on-year increase in the number of developers using its API and expects that to grow further as it opens more of its technology.

Following the latest release of its API last May the number of developers who have taken up the app through its third party API management partner Mashery has hit 5,000 worldwide.

But EAN is keen to invigorate innovation in travel further as Amazon has done in the general retail sector, by breaking up its API into component parts offering developers greater flexibility.

John Watton, EAN director brand and marketing, said the rise of mobile and tablets has seen a fourth key area of development emerge to add to the airline industry, OTAs and search businesses.

“We are a deeply technology-focused business and more and more of that is emerging. One of the things we have looked at is the evolution of what we have been offering.

“Go back 10 years and people saw us as the classic affiliate programme for those who want to make money selling hotels. Ten years on it’s a lot more complicated.

“We think of what we are offering as more of a technology platform, providing a platform to give those third parties access to our hotel inventory.

“Three or four years ago most of our business was website templates where you could go online and set up these pretty standard templates.

“Fast forward to today and 90% of what we do is business through APIs.

“The digital competence in the world has increased and building websites is getting easier and easier, and the willingness of developers to engage with more components has increased.

“People more and more want to integrate different components, not just have an out of the box website.”

A man clicking a mouseEAN started offering its API through Mashery from its in-house infrastructure around a year ago and Watton said this was a significant move.

“You go on there and there are a whole load of major brand APIs like eBay.

“Not only are we seeing this trend for website owners wanting an API offering, we could not provide that through a proprietary system.”

Watton said the new approach giving free and open access has given the EAN business a “life of its own” and helped to build the developer community.

He said developers are not interested in engaging in a traditional commercial way having to sign loads of legal forms or to pay for access.

The transaction model EAN operates means that if the technology that emerges from this relationship sells more product the developer and affiliate benefits, as does Expedia.

Some of the more exciting innovations are coming in the mobile space, said Watton, with some major partnerships due to be announced soon with “leading edge” trip planning affiliates.

“Not even a company like Expedia can drive all the innovation in the marketplace. We are thinking about what we offer with our API.

“At the moment we are kind of giving people the whole cake but they are saying but I quite like to frosting, or I don’t like the filling but I do like the sponge.

“Why shouldn’t we provide more and more of the ingredients? We are trying to break more and more of our technology into smaller pieces.

“For example if someone wanted to take our clever search algorithm and apply it to something else in travel. We might have some really good technology that can be used in different ways.”

One of the key advantages for affiliates is that the building blocks of a travel website are already there and they can spend more of their time concentrating on what makes them different.

Watton said: “In any travel website there are a high proportion of things that are pretty standard.

“The barriers to entry are coming down, web technology is getting cheaper and more accessible. The challenge is to retail hotels so you need to focus on the 5% that makes you different.

“We can provide the core services so if you differentiator is a really cool way to search for hotels you can focus on that. Technology in itself is not necessarily the differentiator it’s how you use it.”

EAN believes that the online travel sector has a long way to go in terms of penetration into what is a multi-trillion pound market.

And EAN is committed to a flexible approach enabling the pioneers to develop new concepts while keeping it at the heart of the innovation in the industry.

“Developers are getting smarter, you are seeing the digital competence accelerating all the time and we have to stay well ahead of that game.”

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