Etsy's Developer Community and API

EtsyImage by fredwilson via Flickr

Our portfolio company Etsy announced their API and developer community a few days ago and I've been remiss in blogging about it.

I am a big fan of web services that offer APIs to developers to build on top of and I am particularly interested in e-commerce services that leverage APIs. For those that don't know, Etsy is a marketplace for handmade goods like jewelry, ceramics, metalwork, etc. It's a very artistic community that is full of beautiful items for sale.

I am very interested to see what developers will build on top of the Etsy marketplace. Here are some examples of what has been built so far:

Heartomatic – from Craftcult

Shop Value – from Etsy Hacks

Makerspot – syndicate your Etsy store onto your own website

Soopsee – aggregate your flickr account, Etsy store, etc onto your own website

No one company can do everything for its customers. By opening up your webservice via an API and a developer community, you unleash the power of the web to do that for you. Bravo Etsy and Bravo to all the developers working on the Etsy API already.

If you want to join the Etsy developer community, here it is.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Edwin Khodabakchian

    Fred: do you know if they are rolling out an affiliate program as part of the API delivery? I think that it would be great if they could find a way to reward developers who use the API to showcase products and deliver traffic to them.

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t know but its a good question

  2. Joe Lazarus

    The API looks great… very comprehensive in terms of all the calls you can make and the data that’s available. Congrats to Chad Dickerson and the rest of the Etsy tech team. I’m surprised they don’t include some sort of affiliate compensation, though. Most ecommerce API’s don’t gain much traction till they pay the developers. Then again, most ecommerce sites don’t have the devoted fans that Etsy has.I’m looking forward to seeing what the developer community comes up with. Etsy could certainly benefit from some new, alternative ways to search / browse their growing catalog. I love Etsy – it’s one of my favorite sites – but it’s often hard to narrow in on the items I’m interested in. Perhaps an outside developer can come up with some type of “interestingness” sort for search results, for example.

    1. fredwilson

      Agreed about new forms of display and discovery

    2. Ed

      An affiliate scheme would be a dream! But at 3.5% commission and $.20 per unit listing I doubt Etsy will be able to offer this.

      1. fredwilson

        But sellers could offer it the payment through an affiliate system managedby EtsyI have no idea if this has even been discussed by Etsy management, mind you,but one of Etsy’s opportunities is to build services for sellers to generatetraffic to their stores

  3. BmoreWire

    this is awesome. just awesome. i love community based aggregation. we are reading their minds…

  4. dabent

    I’m building a site to use the API now. The API is really well done, including the API browser.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s great to hear

  5. lazerow

    Congrats! This is HUGE. There’s definitely a social Etsy shopping app in here somewhere …

    1. Taylor Davidson

      Allowing developers to re-skin the Etsy listings in tremendous for Etsy and their sellers, it makes it an even stronger and more attractive marketplace / platform for sellers.Talking about a “social Etsy shopping app”: I’d be interested to see a social recommendation app using data from other friends’ purchases, from things I’ve bookmarked, or favorited, or tweeted or posted about, aggregating the mix of publicly available content indicating purchase intent. Or perhaps it could help me find gifts for people by feeding in their public data; I know I could use the help picking out gifts 🙂

  6. EtsyWatcher

    The open API for Etsy is a strong step for the company. I especially like the Makerspot idea of integrating a blog into an Etsy store. Building on its community focus, Etsy has always had potential to deepen the relationship between the shop owners and potential buyers beyond the built in one-to-one convo/”email” system and underutilized feedback tool. A tool to allow sellers to integrate Twitter or blogs into their shops could certainly expand the seller/buyer relationship.Although Etsy continues to grow, like an anorexic at Thanksgiving, Etsy is leaving so much on the table. The search tool has needed improvement for some time and unfortunately the announced search improvements don’t seem to address the fundamental problem. Granted, building a search tool for unique items that are transitory and by definition only exist on the site until they are purchased is a very hard problem, especially given the vast universe of items on Etsy, but it can be done.Etsy has great coverage in the media and has been wildly successful to this point at acquiring users through the community, flickr, seller blogs, Facebook aps, the API and the like. I think the company has matured and would benefit greatly from more traditional marketing. The NPR spots over the holidays were a step in the right direction but the idea seems to have been dropped.Etsy has so much potential but they need to start acting on it, the API ensures ideas will be pushed forward and that is a great thing.

    1. fredwilson

      Good feedback and constructive criticismSearch is a big priority and you’ve seen the company attack the urgentissues with search alreadyThe real solution to search will not be nearly as easy or as quick, but theyare on it and will be making the improvements you seek in time.The past year has been about building a management team that has theexperience and ability to take Etsy to the next level. I think you’ll startseeing what that team can and will do in the coming months.

    2. Ed Lea

      “I especially like the Makerspot idea of integrating a blog into an Etsy store.”SoopSee will not only integrate your blog into your Etsy shop, it will enable you to add much more. You can even buy a domain name and publish to that rather than just run off a subdomain.The key point about SoopSee is that it’s non-disruptive to wherever you promote yourself at the moment. You don’t need to switch blogs or domains. SoopSee does all the leg-work for you and presents your entire brand (gathered from all over the web) in one customer friendly place, with very little effort.Anyway – enough of the hard sell! I think the API is a great move for Etsy, but it’s also a great opportunity for developers. There are lots of Etsians looking for extra functionality and lots of developers willing to create that functionality.I do agree with EtsyWatcher that Etsy should be pushing/promoting itself a bit harder now. They have the cash, they have the fan base and they have other sites biting at their heels (especially in internationalization terms). Let’s hope the API gives Etsy a bit more momentum.

      1. fredwilson

        What kind of promotion do you think Etsy would get the most bang for thebuck with?Internet based promotion?Offline promotion?Any specific suggestions?

        1. gigih

          Most bang will come from online promotion. Marketing should be around attracting buyers. Go where the buyers are. Enable Facebook Connect so that individual items can be posted into newsfeeds. This would be free and very powerful.

          1. fredwilson

            I agree about online and facebook and twitter. Facebook and twitter are already top referrers to etsy and we can so much more with both of them. Blogs too (which the api will help with)

        2. Ed

          I’m UK based. I’ve dabbled with an online art market myself and as a result I did a talk about 4 months ago at a local artists center to about 40 artists and makers ranging from recent grads to 30+ year professionals. None had heard of Etsy and I was very surprised. Etsy, although the most popular “maker” venue on the web, is still a tiny spec. I worry about sites like dawanda who are offering multi-language, multi-currency options to beat Etsy to the rest of the world.Etsy is very much a one way relationship. You buy from a seller, there isn’t much of an opportunity to engage with that seller beyond that – unlike art fairs, exhibitions, open studios where you can interact with the person behind the product (which massively increases repeat purchases).Here is where I believe the API will help. Developers like myself are building tools to enable etsy sellers to take the customer/maker relationship beyond a simple transaction. Of course, events like art fairs and open studios require a physical location, so it’s how you translate that openness and inclusiveness to the web in order to build a following of customers (I have some ideas on this which I’m building).So, in terms of attracting as many sellers as possible, I think bang for buck, etsy already made a good call – the API. You can tackle lots of problems head on like enabling a Ukrainian to offer their listings in their language and their currency without affecting the core functionality of Etsy.From a buyers perspective, not many people know about Etsy – when they find it, they love it. I think part of the solution to discovery is to enable those tools for sellers to invite their existing buyers and enable them to manage that relationship (deliberately ambiguous answer, sorry).I also agree with gigih, personal recommendation among friends. It would only take my wife a few moments to find something she likes on Etsy and post it to her friends through facebook. There isn’t a week that goes by where they’re not clubbing together for a birthday present… enable the buyers/visitors to point to stuff they love and show it to their friends – it’s a natural instinct 🙂 Again, I think the API holds some of the answers for this. Apart from that, I can’t think of many other ways to spend $27m!

          1. fredwilson

            Thanks for all of this feedback. We are are aware of almost all of it but this kind of feedback is very helpful in the prioritization process and because we can’t do everything – we’ve got the API for great developers like youi

  7. PhotoHand

    Etsy is brilliant the way it is. I shopped there and I helped some of my indie designer friends to set up stores on Etsy. But, if you start adding gadgets for gadgets’ sake you will only ruin it. The site’s main audience are women and we women prefer services to gadgets and we definitely don’t like “Swiss Army knife” solutions. I have ten years of experience in IT and I still hate reading manuals to new gadgets. Please keep Etsy simple!!!!

    1. fredwilson

      The api is for people who want to build stuff that exists outside of etsy.I am fairly certain that the etsy you know and love won’t change very much (if at all) because of the api and developer community

  8. Vaibhav Domkundwar

    This is great news. MakerSpot is one great idea. Overall I think it will be critical to keep things simple with any API apps as one commenter has said below. I am associated with an art marketplace that is in private beta and one thing we have understood from that audience is that they care of features that help them achieve what they are mainly looking for in the site. Anything fancy like widgets and badges etc. that have an appeal for tech oriented users, don’t really hold as much value for the artists audience unless it serves a clear purpose. I see the same with Etsy – tools that help manage and market their stores will be useful for sellers. Looking at the ecosystem of ebay solutions ‘may be’ a good start to see what might appeal to the Etsy audience as well.

  9. Ian Malpass

    An affiliate program would be interesting, and would certainly spur the development of buyer-centric tools (which would be good for Etsy and Etsy sellers). However, it seems like an affiliate program that was opt-in for sellers (and funded by an additional fee on top of the regular Etsy fees) would be difficult. An app would have to filter out “non-paying” sellers (which seems kind of ugly, and would be difficult until there was a good pool of sellers offering the affiliate payment), or there would be no reason for a seller to agree to pay the affiliate fee. It would make more sense to me for Etsy to provide the payment out of their fees, but I’m not enough of an economist to be able to make a call as to whether the increased income from increased sales would offset the increased costs of such a programme. Given all the things that are already on Etsy’s to-do list, I suspect an affiliate programme would just be a distraction.As it is, most revenue at the moment seems to come from advertising – you can sell your space as being viewed by a very pro-Etsy demographic, after all. At I’ve been mostly building seller tools, which don’t bring in such good ad revenue and wouldn’t really benefit from an affiliate program. Currently I mostly rely on donations, but I’m looking at building some subscription-based services too.It will be interesting to see what works and what doesn’t when it comes to monetising applications built for Etsy, although I suspect there’ll still be plenty of development just for kudos.One possibility for getting more attention from developers would be to offer an “Etsy Developer Grant” – kind of “micro-VC” for applications that are helping the Etsy community. Or perhaps some sort of competition or challenge. Not sure how you’d actually administer any such programme, though.

    1. fredwilson

      Nope. I don’t share your views on this one