Strava Expands 3rd Party App Developer Program

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Strava has announced an “updated developer program”, which is the program that some 85,000 developers and apps use to leverage the platform via its API (application programming interface). Unquestionably, in the sports world – there’s no online platform that’s had as successful a developer program as Strava. At least in terms of total uptake/connectivity.

And while there are countless cool apps for Strava these days, there’s also been countless challenges for apps on Strava. Mainly, when apps get successful – they tend to basically get strangled by their own success. They hit API rate limits, lack of any support from Strava, and a host of other growing pains. Sure, if your name is Garmin, Whoop, Oura, or Peloton (and even VeloViewer) – you had a point of contact to help loosen the compression socks. But for everyone else? Frankly, they just gave up.

So when Strava publishes a post titled “Updated Developer Program”, most (rightfully) assume the worst. Generally speaking, any time any company titles something simply as “Updated” – it means you’re about to lose something (especially for airline frequent flyer programs).

However, this time around, at least according to Strava, nobody is losing anything. In fact, those smaller apps that were getting strangled will now, in theory, feel a different kind of love: Dedicated partner account managers, and potentially increased rate limits.

To begin, here’s the letter Strava published, written by Mateo Ortega. He has long been ‘the guy’ when it came to the developer program and partnerships. These days he’s moved up in the world slightly and got fancy headshots and all. Though, I can attest he still has just as many watches and bike computers on every ride as I do. Anyways, here’s what he said:

“More than 10 years ago, I joined Strava to help bolster the app’s core functionality, such as mobile GPS recording (still new at the time) and much more. As we grew, my role evolved as we shifted our focus to our external API. A deeper investment in our developer ecosystem enabled us to evolve our services and establish a model where connecting to Strava was indispensable to growth, especially for tracking apps. As a result, today, we have over 85,000+ applications in our connected ecosystem, including partners like Garmin, Oura, Peloton, Zwift, Whoop, VeloViewer, and many more. Over a decade later, I am proud to have collaborated with an incredible team to transform Strava into the unifying platform for all GPS devices, workout and fitness apps, and other tools serving our global community of active people.

 

Of course, none of these milestones would have been possible without you – the developers building the amazing apps that connect to our API. Not much has changed since we set on our mission to put Strava at the center of connected fitness, which is why today, I am excited to introduce you to our updated developer program.

 

With over 100M athletes in 190 countries worldwide, we know the opportunity to build on Strava’s API is more lucrative than ever. For this reason, we’ve redesigned our program to provide you with the tools, support, and knowledge you’ll need as you build and grow your app. This means you’ll have better communication with developer support and partner managers to help you innovate and ideate on paths to growth here on Strava.

 

Overall, this process unlocks more opportunities for app owners to connect the active people on our platform with the motivation that keeps them moving.

 

Here’s what you can expect in the coming months as we begin our program updates:

  • If you have an app currently connected to our external API, you can expect an email from our team outlining what comes next. We’ll ask app owners to submit a new application for review to help us determine the appropriate level of support to provide based on your needs. You will have 6 months to submit your app for review, and once approved, you’ll be set for the year.
  • For those interested in building on our API – welcome! Please contact our team at developers@strava.com to begin your application process and get introduced to our API and updated program.
  • Finally, we’ve updated our homepage. Find us at strava.com/developers to stay up-to-date with updates, news, and more.

We’re proud to have over 85,000 of you – developers, organizations, and apps on our API. We know that by optimizing the ways we work together, we can better reward your innovation and growth by connecting your app to the largest community of athletes in the world.”

Now, admittedly, this is all a bit fuzzy. So basically, what’s actually happening is a bit more like those airline frequent flyer programs I mentioned earlier. Each year, Strava is going to be looking at apps to see how/if they’ve grown. If an app has grown enough (with growth here basically a function of how many users are using the Strava API via their app), they’ll likely qualify for a dedicated partner account manager. In other words, someone that can look after their issues and get things untangled, alongside dedicated support channels. Dedicated partner account managers are super common in the tech world (and beyond) as a way to ensure that high-profile apps/platforms have a single point of contact in case something comes up.

In addition, these apps will also have a more streamlined process to get rate limit upgrades. Currently, numerous apps run into Strava API rate limits, and there just hasn’t been a way for most of those apps to contact anyone at Strava (meaningfully) to get a response. Setting aside how frustrating that’s been for many apps to date, hopefully this will begin to resolve that.

Ultimately, we’ll have to see how this all goes. I’m optimistic these are steps in the right direction – but at the same time, as I said above, any time a company uses the words ‘Updated’ in the title of an e-mail/header, it causes concern. However, at present, Strava says that for apps that don’t meet whatever the threshold is for the new special tier, there won’t be any changes for them – a literal same-same.

With that – thanks for reading!

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42 Comments

  1. SummitAK

    Lol. Maybe they’ll open the API up to Relive again?

  2. It seems quite vague to me :/ Do we have any more details?

    • The details are the bits I sprinkled before/after. As for an exact user #/count to meet the threshold for a dedicated partner manager, they obviously aren’t providing that – sorta like most companies that have preferred account manager programs don’t. Often these sorts of things are tied to not only straight user numbers, but sometimes other factors as well (growth trend, some other partnership, etc…).

    • so you reckon that the change will be in terms of the partnerships? that they will make it easier to collaborate with them?

    • Nope, this is simply offering a new tier of support for apps that become big enough.

      That’s all.

    • I see. I was expecting something better from them :)

  3. Grant

    IIRC their terms and conditions make it very difficult to build anything with confidence as it basically says they can switch off your app if it looks like something they’ll ever want to build. I guess that’s true for a lot of APIs though.

  4. Mike

    Thanks for the great review. That first bullet was scary “re-apply” and “if you are approved” which suggests that they also may wean some apps out of the program. We are holding our breath.

  5. Roach

    Intervals.icu went through a whole thing not long ago where they were hitting their API limit and said they’d need to start charging for stuff to handle it, but Strava reached out at the last minute and helped them work it out without needing to pay for it. Sounds like this is sort of a codification and extension of what happened there.

    • Erik

      I came here to say the same. Intervals.icu, which is a fantastic and free site, was going to have to charge users to stay below the Strava limits. It’s not because Strava was charging the developer, rather it was because he had to whittle down the number of API calls to stay within Strava’s limits that allocated to him. By charging money for the Strava syncing, he could get back below the cap.

      He has tried reaching out to Strava for an API call increase, but hadn’t heard anything back. Eventually Strava did increase the limit and the developer promptly made Strava syncing free again. This was all a month or two ago, so it’s likely what spurred Strava to tweak their system.

  6. IIRC their terms and conditions make it very difficult to build anything with confidence as it basically says they can switch off your app if it looks like something they’ll ever want to build. I guess that’s true for a lot of APIs though.

  7. Fort

    It sounds like they are going to review every app every year going forward? Are they really going to have human power to go through 85,000 applications every year indefinitely? The lack of detail makes me wonder if they are going to be culling a lot of little apps.

    • Fort

      link to strava.com now has a faq item:

      “What are Strava’s supported integration types? Strava supports the following integration types: Activity Syncing, Routes, Live Segments, and Photo and Video.”

      Which really makes it sound like those 5 categories are an exhaustive list. But the (current) api covers a lot more types of things besides things that would fit into those 5 categories. And according to archive.org, this bit is new to that page since March 26. And notably, the live segments part of the api is heavily restricted (as you’ve written articles about before), only huge players like Garmin get access and then anyone else that is willing to pay the fee (you’re articles pointed out several instances where companies deemed the fee not worth it for their business and therefore did not include that feature in their product). Are they planning to get rid of every app that doesn’t neatly fall into one of those 5 categories? I hope not, but this is worrying.

    • “Are they really going to have human power to go through 85,000 applications every year indefinitely? The lack of detail makes me wonder if they are going to be culling a lot of little apps.”

      Nah, no human is going to go through them. They’re going to simply look at the current usage of the API from a given app, sort by the most popular apps, and assign/offer them a partner account manager and dedicated support.

      There’s no culling of apps going on here, from everything Strava is telling me. If an app is small, it’ll all be the same for them going forward. If an app has outgrown things, they’ll get support/preferred contact.

      Ultimately, I think the letter probably needed a bit more detail on this point.

    • Velo2

      Thank you Ray for the explanation and insight into this being a usage sorting exercise. I have mostly tried to stay off their radar because they have all the control… the looming threat to terminate my developer account without reason at their whim when they feel like it because my app is considered “competing.”

  8. Kevin

    Is there any mention of whether they’ll be charging apps that are deemed large enough to demand a dedicated Partner Support Manager and increased API limits? It would make sense; if you build a successful app that relies on Strava, then Strava should benefit from your success. Also, see recent news about Reddit charging for API access, and Twitter increasing their API fees.

    • Nothing at all that I’ve heard there. This is literally the opposite supposedly – trying to court the bigger apps and get them the support they need.

      I don’t see Strava trying to charge apps for API access. They tried that in the past and it mostly backfired. Just in the same way it’s mostly backfiring for Twitter. And in the same way it didn’t work out for Garmin (who hasn’t had a fee since pre-COVID sometime).

  9. Frederic

    Now that Strava spiked their subscription, it would make sense that they can afford higher API rate limits …..

  10. Frederic

    “which is the program that some 85,000 developers and apps use to leverage the platform via its API”

    How accurate is that number ? are those 85,00 really “active” ?

  11. paste andcopy

    we re-open what is open already; how the 85000 milion developers exists if not from strava ‘developer program’?
    is this is a re-developer re-program strava? sounds better!

  12. An update:

    I submitted the form last week for my app (Strautomator), and it got approved less than 24 hours later. My limits are still the same, the only thing added was a “athlete capacity” thing which is set to 99999.

    I can see the new limits (read and write) distinctively on the app dashboard now.

    So there’s definitely someone, or bot, going through the app reviews. I suspect that’s also an easy way for them to get rid of dangling / unused apps if the developers do not submit the form by the deadline.

    • Chester

      Eep, I submitted almost 3 days ago now and haven’t heard anything, so it seems like it is not automated. I sure hope my app gets re-approved.

    • david n

      I didn’t receive a reply either – and I applied over a week ago. Maybe they want to get rid of desktop software accessing their api :P

    • Chester

      The two of us at least can band together!

  13. I have an app that I wrote just for myself. I ask for no support from Strava. Are they going to cut me out?

    Thanks

  14. Hannes

    Hi,
    I just received an e-mail from Strava regarding the new developer program “to enroll in the new program, all apps must submit for review.”. I am not an app developer, but I use the API for the desktop version of Elevate. Any hints / thoughts how to proceed?

    • Doug

      Yeah I am also interested in this. I saw this forum post that said that if you don’t apply they will deactivate your app. I just use some python to reanalyse my data and now i have to add some strava graphics to matplotlib so I don’t forget where the data is coming from?!

      link to communityhub.strava.com

  15. Angstrom

    Strava just released an update that lets you link a default piece of gear for a specified activity type, but it doesn’t work unless you enter the make and model of that piece of equipment. That’s one way to get more user data….

  16. david n

    So I actually got approved. But they throttled my limits to 200/2000 requests (it used to be 600/30000). So this change also affects small applications.

    • Patrick R

      this is what I’m worried about, my app has those API limits 600/30000 and sounds like they are going to cut them down.

    • david n

      It’s possible that they define your calls depending on the amount of people using your application, which you specify when filling out the form. Maybe the also look at your past usage and go from there. Or they just play darts and get the value from there. Who knows?

      The 100 read requests I got are a joke but thankfully I don’t rely on it.

  17. This is awesome! But 3 months down the line, we don’t seem to have heard anything! Have you heard of anyone else getting more information regarding increasing rate limits?

    • I’ve heard from a number of apps that have received responses back (including just some in the last week or so). Seems like things are slow going. Either way, nobody has been demoted, and I’ve heard from a few that saw massive rate increases.

      So basically, it’s like they said: Nothing changes for most, and for a handful they’ll get more love.

    • Prubba

      I think you are mistaken. My app went from 30k to 1k. I raised a ticket with them, they responded and they did not raise the rate at all. And if you look just directly above the very comment you just left you can see another person complaining of a rate cut as well. Please stop repeating this lie about no decreases, you’ve been informed multiple times that it is not true.

    • Outside of yours, which you (oddly) didn’t post till just now – I didn’t see the one above as I was on a WordPress dashboard.

      I’ll ask what’s up.

  18. velo2

    They extended the deadline to March ’04…and are apparently excited by this.

    But they didn’t come right out and say why, which is not surprising.

    At Strava, we’re constantly inspired by the passion and innovation within our developer community. Since we launched our new developer program, we’ve witnessed an overwhelming amount of interest and enthusiasm. It’s evident that many of you are keen to collaborate and continue contributing to the vibrant Strava ecosystem.

    Your invaluable feedback has allowed us to refine and improve the application process. As we iterate to ensure a streamlined submission journey, we recognize that additional time to submit for review would be appreciated by our community.

    In light of this, we’re excited to announce that we are extending the deadline for our Developer Program. This will provide everyone ample opportunity to be part of this exciting journey and ensure that all apps benefit.

    The new deadline will be March 4th, 2024.

    Thank you for your continued interest and feedback. Together, we look forward to building a richer and more dynamic Strava experience for our shared community.

    Sincerely,
    Strava API Team