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📄Research Article │ 🔍Refereed🔓Open Access

API Governance:
The Case of Facebook’s Evolution

📂History and Evolution of Facebook Platform Researchers, policymakers, and competition and regulation authorities worldwide recognize the utility of application programming interfaces (APIs) in powering the digital economy and driving datafication and platformization processes. However, it remains unclear how the APIs of leading social media relate to platform governance and how this relationship evolved. This article traces the evolution of Facebook’s APIs, which evolved from a relatively simple programming interface for data access into a complex layered and interconnected governance arrangement. The study draws on a large corpus of (archived) developer pages and API reference documentation to examine the history of Facebook’s API governance; that is, the governance of and by Facebook through its APIs. This historical analysis emphasizes the technical dimensions and dynamics of what, how, and whom powerful platforms seek to govern, thus highlighting the technicity of platform governance and how it evolved. Because APIs facilitate and govern the material conditions of app development and the social and economic processes they sustain, powerful platforms influence the evolution of their larger ecosystems. As such, the technicity of Facebook’s API governance represents a major source of the platform’s “infrastructural power.”

📋 ✍Cite

📋Cite (APA) van der Vlist, F. N., Helmond, A., Burkhardt, M., & Seitz, T. (2022). API Governance: The Case of Facebook’s Evolution. Social Media + Society, 8(2), 1–24. SAGE Publications. DOI: 10.1177/20563051221086228.
🔗Link (DOI)

Kind Journal Article; Original Research Article
Author F. N. van der Vlist; A. Helmond; M. Burkhardt; T. Seitz
Publication Date 2022, May 7 [first published online]; 2022, April–June [issue published]
Journal Social Media + Society (SM+S)
Volume 8
Issue 2
Pages 1–24 (24)
Publisher SAGE Publications (London, United Kingdom)
Identifier 10.1177/20563051221086228 [self]; 2056-3051 [part of]; [funded by]; 262513311 [funded by]; 275-45-009 [funded by]
License CC BY-ND 4.0
Data Availability The data that support the findings of this study are openly available in the Open Science Framework (OSF) at Additionally, PyCatFlow (a Python package for visualizing categorical time series data used to create Figures 4 and 5) is available at


🖇Attached 🕓Date Modified ↧ Name Kind Access
2022-03-01 Historical Facebook Platform ‘Boundary Resources’ for Application Development, 2006–2020 🗄Research Data 🔓Open Access
2021-09-16 The Governance of Facebook Platform 📄 🔍Conference Proceeding 🔓Open Access
2021-07-23 The Technicity of Platform Governance 📄Working Paper 🔓Open Access
2021-07-01 Platform and App Histories 📄 📗Book Section 🔒Closed
2020-10-05 The Evolution of Facebook’s Graph API 📄 🔍Conference Proceeding 🔓Open Access
📌 2020-01 Center for Digital Methodologies Tools 🔧Research Tools 🌍Public
📌 2019-11-06 Social Media and Platform Historiography 📄 🔍Research Article 🔓Open Access
📌 2019-05-01 Facebook’s Evolution 📄 🔍Research Article 🔓Open Access
2019-03-20 Historical Facebook Platform ‘Boundary Resources’, 2006–2018 🗄Research Data 🔓Open Access
2018-12-17 Seeing the Forest for the Trees Diagrams 📊Infographics 🔓Open Access
2017-07-28 The Political Economy of Social Data 📄 🔍Conference Proceeding 🔒Closed