Learn-to-code startup Codecademy is expanding its curriculum today with the launch of new API-focused lessons in partnership with services like YouTube, Twilio, and NPR.
The goal, according to co-founder Zach Sims, is to allow students to create cool apps by taking advantage of existing infrastructure. He said it’s an extension of Codecademy’s vision of helping people learn by actually building things.
“The best way to learn is by creating,” he said.
The companies offering API lessons through Codecademy include Twilio, YouTube, NPR, Parse, SoundCloud, Sunlight Foundation, Bitly, SendGrid, Stripe, and Placekitten. For example, Codecademy offers lessons on how to use APIs to search for the top videos on YouTube and get full transcripts of NPR stories. And there are more partnerships in the works. (Sims said that these are non-commercial deals.)
When I asked how much experience people will need to participate, Sims said, “We think they’re super easy for people getting started to play with but can also help advanced developers to get up and running with APIs.” And he writes in a company blog post that, in a way, the idea goes back to a hackathon at TechCrunch Disrupt:
When I worked at GroupMe before starting Codecademy, it always amazed me that the company started at a TechCrunch Disrupt hackathon. Its founders somehow built an awesome group texting application in less than 48 hours! How’d they do it? They built on top of another company’s technology – Twilio, in this case – and used it to build an app of their own. Twilio sent the text messages, but GroupMe handled group formation, the interface, and more. A year after GroupMe was created at a hackathon, Skype bought it for more than $60m.
That’s one of the many examples of the power of APIs – application programming interfaces. They exist to make it easy to interface with applications other people have built. Without APIs, hackathons would be much harder. APIs make it easy to create things – to make things that interface and interact with the real world and the technologies in it.
If you’re an aspiring programmer interested in trying the lessons or a company hoping to encourage people to create cool apps with your APIs, you can learn more here.