On Friday, Netflix's VP of edge engineering, Daniel Jacobson, sent the following letter to the service's third-party developers:
Netflix API Developers,
As Netflix continues to grow internationally, the emphasis of our engineering efforts is to satisfy a growing member base and a growing number of devices. To better focus our efforts and to align them with the needs of our global member base, we will be retiring the public API program. Effective on November 14, 2014, public API developers will no longer be able to access Netflix content. All requests to the public API will return 404 errors.
Thank you to for participating in the ecosystem throughout the years.
VP of Edge Engineering
As news, this was both big and small. Small, because the closure of Netflix's API program was long hinted at, and therefore unsurprising. Big, though, because the closure makes Netflix the latest of the big tech companies and services to have restricted their APIs. Twitter has done it. So has Amazon. So has Google.
APIs—application programming interfaces—are, essentially, a way for companies and developers to talk to each other and build off of each other. They're a means of converting the information a service contains into the stuff of the wider Internet. As Alexis explained it a few years ago, "APIs allow data to be pulled from an online source in a structured way. So, Twitter has an API that lets app developers create software that can display your Twitter feed in ways that the company itself did not develop. Developers make a call to that API to 'GET statuses/home timeline' and Twitter sends back 'the 20 most recent statuses" for a user.'"