Interview with Greg Schier, tech lead at Kong and the creator of Insomnia

Insomnia Designer: “Here’s what developers can expect”

JAXenter Editorial Team
© Shutterstock / Olga Salt

We sat down with Greg Schier, tech lead at Kong and the creator of Insomnia, to understand the importance of this solution to developers working with APIs. Find out about its benefits to developers, and how a “spec-first” design to APIs helps.

Insomnia Designer is a new open source collaborative design editor for APIs that makes it easier for developers and DevOps teams to create and edit API specifications. Built on Insomnia Core, which Kong Inc. acquired last year, we sat down with Greg Schier, tech lead at Kong and the creator of Insomnia, to understand the importance of this solution to developers working with APIs.

JAXenter: Tell us about Insomnia.

Greg Schier: More than five years ago, I started Insomnia as a side project to help make APIs easier to explore, debug and share. It quickly caught on with developers, and people started recommending it to their friends and sending me lots of good feedback. I quit my job in 2016 to focus on Insomnia full-time and released the app as an open source project in 2017 to help fill in the gaps and make the app more robust. Insomnia now has over 100 contributors and is used by hundreds of thousands of developers every day!

SEE ALSO: Call for a better Error Handling in APIs

Since Kong was an early supporter of Insomnia—sponsoring initial development back in 2015— it was a natural move for them to acquire Insomnia last year and make it the foundation of Insomnia Designer.

JAXenter: What is Insomnia Designer?

Greg Schier: Adoption of microservices-based applications is growing rapidly among organizations of all sizes. In fact, according to Kong’s 2020 Digital Innovation Benchmark that surveyed 200 IT professionals to uncover the top challenges that their teams are facing and the strategies they are adopting for success, 89 percent think the failure to adopt microservices will hurt their company’s ability to compete. They also believe that microservices-based applications are the future, which inherently requires a more flexible architecture. This mindset is driving new demand for modern, flexible tools for designing, building, deploying and maintaining APIs.

Every microservice in an application exposes its own APIs. The APIs function as the nerve endings connecting decentralized applications and systems, and governing how they communicate and exchange information. Insomnia Designer makes it simple to design APIs and use them across different Git repositories, within existing developer workflows and DevOps processes. Developers love that they do not have to leave Git to design the APIs – it’s a much more natural and efficient way of working.

The software works natively with Insomnia’s testing capabilities to accelerate the development, performance and stability of REST and GraphQL services, the communications backbone of modern applications.

JAXenter: What are the benefits to developers?

Greg Schier: Unlike other API design tools that enforce one-size-fits-all processes, Insomnia Designer brings a spec-first development approach that allows users to create workflows that mirror the way their teams communicate to facilitate better collaboration. We are also releasing plugins that enable users to automatically embed Kong Gateway policies directly into their API specification files. This allows all configurations for the Kong Gateway and API to be stored in the same Git repository. Within the UI, you can select Kong plugins for authentication or rate-limiting to govern your API’s behavior and input it directly into your code.

JAXenter: What is the benefit to developers with a “spec-first” design to APIs?

Greg Schier: Too often, APIs are designed poorly and created in an ad hoc manner, almost as an afterthought.

Recognizing this problem, we created Insomnia Designer to bring a “spec-first” methodology to designing APIs, which is almost like a template, or building block style for creating APIs. So developers start with an actual spec that allows them to define the policies and requirements, such as authentication, identification of which endpoints to support, etc. Typically developers and product team leads are involved in looking at the API design. Say you have a payment API, the product team will be very interested in how that API looks, and it’s important for all stakeholders to be on the same page.

In most companies, there’s also a lack of visibility into APIs used across other teams and there’s a lot of recreating the wheel. Insomnia Designer gives an overview of all APIs at the company, bringing visibility and insight into the specific design elements, so that new APIs do not have to be created in a vacuum.

SEE ALSO: Best practices in geolocation-based API request routing

JAXenter: What else can we expect from the Kong/Insomnia relationship in the future? 

Greg Schier: Insomnia’s goal since the beginning has been to help make APIs easier to explore and debug. Since joining Kong, we’ve been able to put more resources into the project and launch a brand new application for designing APIs. Going forward, we’re excited to continue building tools that help make designing APIs easier, while maintaining the principles that got Insomnia where it is today – great developer experience, open source, and extensibility.

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