API Licensing Business Model

API Licensing Business Model – How Does It Work? (Explained)

Modern technological companies offer various software and applications to customers. Most of these customers are end-users that interact with those solutions and use them for their needs. These consumers use the default solutions provided and can solve their problems through it. However, some customers may want extra features from the software.

While different solutions provide additional features, customers may want to interact with existing ones. The companies that offer these solutions allow some customers to modify or interact with their solutions through a computing interface. This interface is known as Application Programming Interface (API).

Companies that provide their customers with an API use other business models. For their API, however, they may combine their core model with an API-based business model. Among those models, companies may use the API licensing business model.

What is the API Licensing business model?

In the modern world of technology, using various software has become inevitable. Most users use the software and applications directly. However, larger customers may need to interact with the software for several reasons. Therefore, the software companies provide an API for these customers to enable that functionality.

An API defines the kinds of call or request a user makes, how they make it, the format or conventions they must follow, etc. An API also provides an extension mechanism, allowing users to extend the existing software’s functionality according to their needs. There are various types of APIs that companies may provide.

While some companies provide APIs for free, others may also charge for them through a license. Companies make software for a specific purpose.

Nevertheless, providing users with the ability to modify their behavior may be crucial. However, developing an API and customizing it for users is an extra process. Therefore, companies can monetize it through licensing.

How does the API Licensing business model work?

The API licensing business model works for companies that offer an API with their applications or software. These companies can, however, charge users for the use of the API.

While they cannot sell the API, due to various provisions, they can license its usage. This way, the company can generate money from its API while also extending the software’s functionality. Through the license, companies may only give rights to the usage of the API. Similarly, with an API licensing contract, these companies can limit users to specific terms. Each API license contract has its own terms and conditions by which users have to abide.

In some cases, the software may have various users apart from the licensee. Therefore, these companies must ensure the licensee does not misuse the API.

Companies may also limit the usage of API to specific users through API credentials. In this way, they can ensure only licensed users can access it. These credentials may come in several forms, such as API keys or passwords, etc.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the API Licensing business model?

The API licensing business model can have various advantages and disadvantages. Some of these are below.


The API licensing business model allows companies to provide smooth and controlled interactions between their software and its users.

By allowing other businesses and users to access its software through an API, it can expand its reach. Similarly, it can enable users to get customized behavior from the software, which may not be possible with the base product.

API licensing can also allow companies to increase the use cases for their software. These companies don’t need to identify all users’ needs and adapt their software to cater to them. Instead, they can build a base software and let users customize their interaction according to their needs. It provides both parties with a mutually beneficial product.

Similarly, in some cases, users may misuse the API provided by companies. Companies that have a large number of users for a single platform software may be problematic. Therefore, limiting the number of users that can interact with its software through API licensing is crucial. At the same time, the company can generate income from the process by charging users for licenses.


Despite its advantages, API licensing can result in a loss of control. Companies that allow users to interact with their software can’t control users’ interactions. They can only regulate those interactions. Therefore, it creates an opening for malicious behavior from users. It can also create further problems for the company.

For the licensee, the API licensing business model creates a dependency on the licensor. If the licensor can provide a high-quality API without any issues, it can work great for both parties. However, when the licensor does not fulfill their part, it can be challenging for the licensee to use the API.


Companies that have online platforms may also provide API licenses to users. These may include Facebook, Twitter, and Google. These companies use the API licensing business model to allow users to interact with their platform. Some other companies, such as TransferWise, may also provide API licenses to large-sized customers.


The API license business model is prevalent among companies that develop software or applications. Application Programming Interface is a computing interface that allows users to interact with those software or applications. Through API licenses, companies can generate revenues while allowing customers to customize the software’s functionality.