Redesigning the Netflix API

Open Data
Location: F150
Average rating: **...
(2.86, 7 ratings)

The Netflix API was launched nearly three years ago with several foundational assumptions in mind.
- the API was designed for the public developers
- Netflix was primarily a DVD delivery business
- Netflix was US only
- Netflix was delivered through data centers

These core assumptions, each of them, are no longer valid. While we still have a public API, the biggest consumers of the API (by a long shot) are our device implementations. Moreover, Netflix’ business is now primarily streaming and we have opened our service up to Canada as our first stop in the international expansion. And finally, over the course of 2010, we successfully migrated from those data centers to the cloud.

These assumptions needed to be replaced with new assumptions that will take Netflix into the future. Accordingly, the design of the API needed to be revisited and re-implemented. Over the course of 2011, that is exactly what we have done… We have envisioned what the API should be, as if we didn’t already have one. This ensured that our imaginations would not be encumbered by our current reality.

The API redesign includes fundamental changes. We have completely changed the request/response models, the authentication approach, the server and caching architecture, the way we code, the release processes, and much more.

Come to this session to learn more about how we changed the tires of the API car while we were driving it. We will also discuss many of the implementation ideas and techniques as well as the metrics that we used to validate them.

Photo of Daniel Jacobson

Daniel Jacobson


Daniel Jacobson is the Director of Engineering for the API at Netflix, responsible for delivering Netflix content to hundreds of devices. Prior to Netflix, he was Director of Application Development at NPR, leading the development of NPR’s custom content management system. He also created NPR’s API which became the distribution channel for getting NPR content to mobile platforms, member station sites throughout the country as well as to the public developer community. Daniel also co-authored the O’Reilly book, “APIs: A Strategy Guide.”

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Bryan Davis
07/28/2011 4:16pm PDT

Presentation could have been better with more focus on the strengths of the proposed design. Many attendees also seems to be confused that the talk was about a redesign of the “public” api rather than a shim layer for Netflix internal product development.