Is it technically correct to call a paid API, e.g. APIs provided by TimeAndDate.com, a SaaS?

The reason of asking is that I was having a discussion with someone who was of the view that we can't as for a SaaS there should be a software which end-users interact with and I was of the opinion that 'Software' is an umbrella term for dozens of things including APIs as well. So paid APIs are also Software as a Service model.

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    What is your definition of SaaS? Does this site fit your definition of SaaS? If yes, then you can call it SaaS, according to your definition of SaaS, if not, then you cannot. – Jörg W Mittag Aug 1 '18 at 11:25
  • Service as a Service? Sure, why not? ;-) – Blrfl Aug 1 '18 at 13:52
  • Is it technically correct to call a paid API, e.g. APIs provided by TimeAndDate.com, a SaaS? Are they selling software or data? If they are not selling the former, then no, it's not technically correct. – Laiv Aug 3 '18 at 6:16
  • So, @Laiv you think an API is not a software? Or did you mean to say 'business application' instead of 'software'? – user1451111 Aug 3 '18 at 10:55
  • Yes, it's. But TimeAndDate is not "selling" the software that provides you with the data, it's "selling" data. Happens that they still need to provide a way for customers to consume the data (an api web). – Laiv Aug 3 '18 at 11:01

No, I don't think a paid web service counts as SaaS. For true SaaS, the idea is that the software is hosted and distributed from the provider centrally. Its more or less a turn key solution which requires minimal effort from the customer. The customer should need to little or no maintenance to use and receive updates to the application(s).

SaaS is also done via a subscription model, where you pay to use the software year after year, vs a one time perpetual license. Consider the difference between Office 365 and Office 2016. The former gets me the latest version right now, and I continue to receive updates as long as my subscription is maintained. With 2016, I get the 2016 version, maybe some updates, but I won't get Office 2017+ unless I pay again. However, if I stop paying the subscription, I would lose access to Office 365.

In your case, your customers still need to build software to interact with your web service. That's the issue; with SaaS, the customer just starts a subscription with you and they can begin to use your software. When they no longer want/need it, they cancel the subscription.

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    You only described half of what a SaaS is or what it provides. The idea beneath SaaS is to make customers to forget anything related to the implementation and maintenance of software that is usually deployed within customer's infrastructure. In that "gap" literally fits any piece of software we can run on the cloud or on a workstation as soon as the only requiered for the customer to access to It is internet. The software itself doesn't matters as much as the service of maintenance involved. – Laiv Aug 1 '18 at 5:17
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    Google Firebase can be a good example. Up untill now, some of its services were free and involved customer's to develop their own solutions around It. Cloud messages are a good example. APIs are just one of the many possible interfaces to access a logic (service) that runs somewhere. As soon as the customer should not be worried about the "how, where and when" It could be labeled as SaaS. On the other hand, SaaS is a buzzword coined by and for sales and marketing. It has very few technical meaning. – Laiv Aug 1 '18 at 5:27
  • Isn't the only difference between your definition of SaaS and OP's proposed application the degree of UI that is provided to a user? Where do we draw the line on the minimum UI requirements needed to be considered SaaS? – Flater Aug 1 '18 at 14:21
  • @Flater The difference between the OPs service and SaaS is the fact that his customers must build their own software to use his service. With SaaS all the software you need to use the software must be included. – Andy Aug 1 '18 at 22:32
  • @Laiv I added another sentence which hopefully makes this clear, but what you're describing is what I meant by "hosted and distributed." – Andy Aug 1 '18 at 22:33

The short answer is that TimeAndDate.com does appear to be a SAAS service.

They offer a software service (though it appears a fairly modest one), and they appear to host it themselves (they have limits on request counts).

According to Wikipedia

Software as a service (SaaS /sæs/)1 is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted

Perhaps I misunderstand some aspect of the question, as the answer appears pretty obvious. And the question is partly garbled:

a discussion with someone who was of the view that we can't as for a SaaS

Perhaps if you correct / clarify the question I can change my answer ;-)

  • I think most reasonable people define software as "applications," not programmer API's. – Robert Harvey Aug 1 '18 at 1:29
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    Well, I've been accused of many things, but reasonableness is not one of them ;-). I cannot say what 'most reasonable people' would think about this. But it never occurred to me to NOT consider a UI-less collection of webservices an application. I've even built many of them ;-). I cannot say for sure they were called 'applications'. But they were definitely called 'services' and sold (or used) as such. I KNOW this is not dispositive, but wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Application_software) says "an application is a computer program designed to help people perform an activity". No GUI – Lewis Pringle Aug 1 '18 at 1:35
  • Wikipedia's definition is the most vague definition of anything that I've ever seen. However, I've given it some thought and realized that I use "software" to mean, simply, "computer code," so I've upvoted your answer accordingly. – Robert Harvey Aug 1 '18 at 15:39
  • @RobertHarvey - I suggest that maybe Wikipedia's definition is vague, because its defining a word, whose meaning is vague ;-) bartleby.com/73/2019.html – Lewis Pringle Aug 1 '18 at 15:45
  • I do think a key part of SaaS is that the software is ready to use, and not something that a customer needs to spend more money on building and maintaining a portion of the solution themselves. – Andy Aug 1 '18 at 22:37

Saas requires that the service provider host the customer's data.

TimeAndDate is not SAAS as they don't require data from the customer to provide a service. You subscribe and they grant you access to their API, but it is their data you are accessing.

IMDB is another subscription API service that is not SAAS. You can subscribe to their API and query data about millions of movies, but it is not SAAS because it is not your data.

A valid SAAS example would be bookkeeping. You subscribe, input your accounting data and they host that data on a cloud platform. Updating the bookkeeping software for you, and you pay to have access to your own data. You use their software on your own data.

TimeAndDate charges a fee based upon the quality of the data they provide.

SAAS businesses charge a fee based upon the importance of your data they host. This is why SalesForce makes so much money. There are many businesses that keep their important data on their platform. The more important the data the higher the fee they can charge. It's a way of locking a customer into a SAAS platform.

TimeAndDate can not lock their customers in. A customer can just go use a different API if the data is the same.

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    According to what definition is it required that a saas solution host your data? – Lewis Pringle Aug 2 '18 at 1:42

Perhaps the de facto definition of Software as a Service, is that the software must be something you would 'in the old days' bought a copy of and installed on your computer.

So Office 365 can be a SaaS because the 'old way' was to buy MS Word on a CD. But Google Mail isn't because no-one buys an email client in a shop.

  • While I roughly agree with the intentions behind the "SaaS" label; I find the examples you used a bit iffy, since Gmail (which is more than just the underlying email service) competes with Outlook, which is in fact no different from Word in that it is part of the "old way" of buying and installing Microsoft Office. Note that both Gmail and Outlook are more than just email clients (calendar, scheduling, ...) – Flater Aug 1 '18 at 14:26
  • @flater I think the key difference is people don't buy outlook. people buy exchange server – Ewan Aug 1 '18 at 14:27
  • You're comparing apples and oranges. Outlook and Word are both part of Microsoft Office. If you consider Word 365 as SaaS because it used to be part of Office, then so is Outlook 365 since it was also part of Office. And if Outlook 365 is SaaS, then Gmail is too since it delivers the same service in the same way. – Flater Aug 1 '18 at 14:49
  • @Flater technically, there is no difference. but thats my point – Ewan Aug 1 '18 at 14:50
  • It's confusing if the example you give is the polar opposite of the point you're trying to make. – Flater Aug 1 '18 at 14:50

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