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This isn't a huge deal, but I was approached by colleagues/friends to build an app using their new API. There was some potential for pecuniary gain for me depending on app usage. I spent a considerable amount of time polishing the mobile app, based on my assumption that, having been approached in a serious way, that the company would not suddenly shift focus and abandon the API. I wasn't even given so much as a heads up that the API was dead even though I had an app in production that relied on it...

For the most part, building the app was a learning experience which I enjoyed, but I don't think I'd have expended all the effort if I knew that the company wasn't as serious about the API as their reaching out to me clearly indicated.

How, if at all, would you react?

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I'd suggest chalking it up to a learning experience, and a future requirement for a signed contract prior to doing any development work. –  mcfinnigan Apr 3 '12 at 15:22
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Not sure if this question is off topic here. It deals more with broken promises and lack of a written contract than programming specifically. –  Bernard Apr 3 '12 at 15:34
    
I think if this question were focused more towards risks (& how to mitigate) of working as a third-party developer (e.g. what to look for in developer docs/company responses before you take the plunge), it could be a constructive question. –  jcmeloni Apr 3 '12 at 15:52

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If you have not signed any contracts, there is nothing you can do to either force maintainance of the API, or get a refund of your expenses. Like @mcfinnigan said, next time if a company approaches you, draw up some kind of contract which formalizes the expectations from both sides. You mention that the people you used the API of are friends/colleagues (friends don't let friends use an API that is no longer supported :)). In that case I would approach them and explain the situation, and express that you are not happy with the way you where treated. In this way they are aware of your feelings in this regard (which they might not have though of) and you could try and prevent such a thing form occuring again with these people.

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What you experienced is the exact reason that many experienced developers are very reluctant to jump on the "new technology" bandwagon. They would rather have the people like you to make the new technology functional, reliable and with a shelf life. In the meantime they spend their time working with established products getting their products delivered and making money, while the new adopters are kicking themselves for their wasted efforts as the new technology turns into a dud.

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The flip side of that is that reluctance creates an opportunity for those who don't mind a little risk (speaking as a 30+ year professional programmer). It's the same reason otherwise intelligent people for startups ;-) –  Ross Patterson Apr 3 '12 at 23:46

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