Innovation is rapid, with new tools and frameworks emerging constantly. As a result, developers today have more choices than ever in how they build applications. This fragmentation presents opportunities and challenges for companies building developer tools and platforms. To be successful, you must meet your users where they are rather than requiring them to conform to your ideals.
It's worth considering integrating your product's core functionality into the tools developers commonly use, such as their IDE or the terminal for compiling code and executing commands. Consider the tools and applications developers frequently use; a significant portion of their time—around 80%—is spent within an Integrated Development Environment (IDE). This is why companies should consider porting functionality into CLI binaries or extensions for VS Code, JetBrains, etc.
Meet developers where they are by integrating into existing tools like IDEs, not requiring them to adopt new ones.
Leverage standards like OpenAPI to create clear APIs that enable ecosystem contributions.
Embed functionality directly in UIs developers spend time in to reduce context switching.
API-first thinking reduces friction, future-proofs for new platforms, and promotes customization and community loyalty.
Leveraging Standards for Innovation
The prevalence of APIs has opened up possibilities for integrating with the environments and workflows developers already use. Rather than solely providing your own bespoke interface, you can embed functionality in the IDEs, browsers, terminals and other interfaces developers spend most of their time in. For example, Atlassian's Jira offers a complex web UI for issue tracking. But to reduce context switching, Jira also provides a Visual Studio Code extension so developers can access issues without leaving their editor.
At Daytona, we've embraced this by carefully considering the developer workflow and all the touchpoints with our product. We are working on a CLI binary and a VS Code extension that allows users to manage workspaces and perform all the actions available in the web UI, as well as integration with the JetBrains ecosystem through their JetBrains Gateway tool.
These supporting tools align with the principle of meeting developers where they are, as they spend most of their time coding in their IDE. Integrating tools into the IDE reduces friction and enhances developer velocity and satisfaction. It can be frustrating to switch between the IDE and the browser, especially when managing multiple profiles and trying to open links from different sources. Extensions like Daytona's in VS Code simplify this process by keeping everything within the primary tool and minimizing distractions.
For instance, with Daytona's tools, you can manage workspaces, switch teams, and profiles, which is particularly useful if you have multiple Daytona installations. This approach not only reduces friction but also caters to developers' preferences.
The OpenAPI Specification: A Standard for Innovation
At Daytona, we use the OpenAPI specification to create a clear, standardized API that developers can easily interact with, generating API clients in the appropriate language for different tools. This standardization is not only efficient but also enables new features such as AI interactions, where AI agents using OpenAPI spec can easily understand and interact with your API.
This approach also ties into open-source initiatives, allowing any developer to create supporting tools. For example, someone could integrate Daytona with other platforms or create a Raycast extension for macOS without Daytona having to develop it in-house. By publishing the OpenAPI spec, you empower developers to create tools that suit their needs.
But also it is important to consider the complexities that come with opening up platforms for external contributions. While it adds work, it's an investment that pays off by enabling innovation and collaboration.
The Rise of Intelligent Development Environments
The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into IDEs is transforming them into Intelligent Development Environments, as forecasted by Manjunath Bhat from Gartner. Local Language Models (LLMs) serve as co-pilots today, but the future may see them become commoditized pilots, integral to the development process. This transition is a testament to the industry's dynamic nature, with IDEs like Cursor and extensions like CodeGPT leading the charge in creating new development workflows.
This constant evolution of developer workflows underscores the importance of creating standardized, extensible infrastructure. Companies that build open and flexible platforms will be best positioned to anticipate and adapt to future changes in the developer experience. Modular architecture based on common standards allows new capabilities like AI to be smoothly integrated over time. The pace of innovation will only accelerate, so developer tools must be designed for interoperability and evolution from the start. Standardization and extensibility will future-proof products as developer needs and environments continue rapidly transforming.
The Compounding Benefits of API-First Thinking
For example, at Daytona we are working on native integrations with VS Code, JetBrains IDEs, our CLI and more. When new platforms gain traction, the community can build clients using well-documented APIs and SDKs. We don't have to build every integration ourselves.
An API-first approach has compounding benefits:
Reduce friction by meeting developers where they already are
Enable community contributions to clients and integrations
Future proof for new platforms by letting the community build for emerging tools
Opening up your platform does require giving up some control. You need processes to curate community integrations before they are published to marketplaces. But done thoughtfully, an API-first approach unlocks contributions and creativity from your user community. Developers want to customize their environment in ways that may not occur to you.
The market will only continue fragmenting as developers gravitate to specialized tools for different tasks. Companies that embrace this reality will thrive. Meet your users where they are now, not where you want them to be. Building in the open creates feedback loops and community ownership that strengthens your product. API-first thinking future proofs you for the next wave of innovation across the incredibly diverse software development landscape.
Rapid innovation leads to fragmentation in developer tools
Reduce friction by integrating into environments where users already spend time
Well-documented APIs and SDKs enable ecosystem integrations
Give up some control, but gain creativity from the user community
Meet developers where they are, not where you want them to be
API-first thinking future proofs you for ongoing waves of innovation
The integration ecosystem around developer tools will only grow more complex. Companies that provide the components for others to build on top of will thrive. This means investing in developer experience and documentation for your APIs. When you empower others to extend your platform, it becomes stronger and more adaptable to future needs.
Relying solely on your bespoke interfaces and portals locks users into your narrow worldview. Exposing capabilities through integrations and APIs shares ownership with your community. Developers will reward companies who understand their desire for customization and meet them where they are.