The oDesk API gives you access to something infinitely more valuable than just a code library - it gives you unique, program-level access to a global, talented freelance workforce.
A World of Possibilities
If your application is tracking tasks–in the case of project management software like BaseCamp, or ActiveCollab–then the oDesk API can harness the organizational prowess of these systems and help translate tasks in to assignments accomplished, by streaming directly to your already hired hourly providers.
If you are supplementing your company's internal workforce with oDesk freelancers, imagine the powerful connection that you can make between your internal time tracking software and the work diaries of your providers. All the hours assigned to providers to be automatically billed to the correct project/client from the system that works best for your business.
If you're a freelancer, hoping to develop a custom way to monitor available jobs, this would be a powerful way to filter search results, and aggregate freelance jobs in conjunction with other job sites–if they're cool enough to provide such a sweet API. (Though you can also check out the jobs RSS feeds here.)
A prime example of what you can do with the API can be seen in our previous post about the oDesk iPhone app. It allows users to access their team room from their iPhone, view screenshots and work diaries, and it's a great way to keep track of things while on the go.
If you are unfamiliar with APIs, it's important to understand that an API is merely a software library that facilitates the connections described above. Now let's talk about making them happen.
A great place to start is the oDesk Developer's Page, here you'll find tutorials on how to get an API key for your application, and all of the API library documentation.
While the API is written in PHP, it follows REST style – meaning that all calls to the API are made using HTTP GET, POST, PUT and DELETE requests, and are returned in XML format (or JSON if that's your preference). So regardless of of your development platform, you can access what you need.
If you are looking to integrate oDesk into an existing application–or creating a new application that taps into oDesk functionality–then the oDesk API can give you the tools you need to make it happen. The sky is the limit, and if you don't have the developer skills yourself, there are lots of talented freelancers on oDesk that can help turn your idea into reality.
Alex Hornbake is one of several freelance writers on the oDesk Blog team. He joined the oDesk marketplace in 2009, and brings more than a decade of technical expertise to his clients. On Wednesdays, Alex shares his expertise through tips, insights and resources to help you, your business, and your clients succeed.