At first glance, closed unified APIs look great: Integrate with one API once and quickly get integrations with many underlying systems.
This lets engineering teams spend less time on maintenance and sales teams can unlock deals with more supported integrations.
However, in reality closed unified APIs don’t always deliver on their promise.
- The unified data model is limitingThe unified data model can only implement the lowest common denominator across the different APIs. This means that you cannot implement API specific features and limits current and future integrations to basic functionality.This can limit the perceived value of the integration by prospects, as they are typically looking for deep integrations with their existing systems.
- Accessing non-unified data is cumbersomeMerge.dev, like many other unified APIs, provides passthrough requests to let you access data that is not part of the unified model.But by using these you basically give up all the advantages of the unified API: Integrations are now again built one by one for each API. You need to learn the external API. Worse, you don’t get the benefits of all the infrastructure the unified API has built. This means you need to build your own background jobs, scheduling, caching, rate-limit handling etc. – whilst still paying the full price of the unified API.
- No control over the supported APIs and use-casesBecause Merge builds all integrations in-house, you can only use the ones they have prioritised and built. If you need an additional API, or support for certain data from an API, you have to wait until they find time to implement it. If they ever do.Additionally Merge decides the unified model in which it places the API. For instance, Jira is treated the same as Zendesk, even though both systems are often used very differently. Similarly, Okta, a single sign-on solution, is treated the same as BambooHR, an HRIS system.With no control over the supported APIs and use-cases you are at the mercy of Merge’s planning and decision making. This can be an issue if the integrations are core to your product, and your customers need something Merge does not support
With these limitations in mind, let’s look at the four most popular alternatives to Merge.dev.
Merge.dev alternative 1: Nango
Nango is an open unified API that is as quick as Merge to ship integrations, but offers more flexibility.
You can use Nango’s pre-built integrations and data models for more than 100 APIs to ship integrations fast, just like with Merge.
But thanks to Nango’s open architecture, you are not limited to what Nango has pre-built: You can always customize pre-built integrations and data models, and even build your own, custom integrations on the same platform. You get full control over your integrations, whilst building just as fast and with no maintenance.
With an open unified API you can truly have a single API for all integrations, with no workarounds, proxy calls and in-house infrastructure to work around the limitations of a closed unified API.
We wrote more about the differences between open and closed unified APIs here.
When to Choose Nango Instead of Merge.dev?
Here’s when Nango might be a better fit for you than Merge.dev:
- You need access to data or APIs not included in Merge’s unified model
- You want to have all integrations (unified and not) on a single platform
- You do not want to be constrained by an external provider in the APIs and integrations you can build in the future
- You want to minimize maintenance overhead, whilst retaining full control over your integrations
Key Figures on Nango
- Number of supported APIs: 100+
- Number and examples of supported API categories: 25, including HRIS, Accounting, CRM, Productivity, Ticketing etc.
- Customization options: 100+ pre-configured APIs with the option to write your own integration quickly and without waiting on Nango
- Pricing: Generous free tier with usage-based pricing. Startups can get special plans or discounts based on their use cases.
Merge.dev alternative 2: Apideck
Apideck is another closed unified API that offers integrations across a wide range of API categories.
Instead of going deep into each category with a large number of supported APIs, they try to cover as many categories as they possibly can. At the time of writing this means that most categories only cover 2-5 APIs in them.
This shows they are open to building solutions for any category that you might need. But you are still dependent on the APIs they add, as you cannot extend their integrations yourself.
Advanced features, such as custom field mappings per customer, are missing. Instead apideck offers a built-in integrations marketplace that lets you display your integrations on your website.
When to Choose Apideck Instead of Merge.dev?
It might make more sense to go with Apideck over Merge.dev in the following cases:
- You need to connect with APIs across a large number of categories
- You need to easily integrate a portal for displaying integrations supported by your app on your website
- You are looking for a solution with a simpler user interface and onboarding experience compared to Merge
Key Figures on Apideck
- Number of supported APIs: ~120
- Number and examples of supported API categories: 22, including Payroll, Calendar, HRIS, POS, File Storage, etc. However, only 9 unified APIs are available and other categories have limited support.
- Customization options: Limited. Users can vote on integrations and categories that the Apideck team is considering. Creating your own integrations is not possible as of now.
- Pricing: Offers a free tier with 5000 calls a month, and the next category is priced at $249 for 50,000 calls a month for one category only.
Merge.dev alternative 3: Paragon
Paragon is a low-code alternative to Merge.dev, which positions itself as an embedded iPaaS (embedded integrations platform) and not a unified API provider.
Embedded iPaaS solutions offer a visual drag & drop editor to assemble pre-built steps into a “workflow”. This workflow can be triggered with an API, so you can run integration actions from your app.
In theory this allows any person in the company to build any integration with a number of external APIs. In practice we see that the integrations are still deeply tied to the app’s code and data model. But, because the integration logic lives in the UI of the embedded iPaaS, it is disconnected from the rest of the application.
One advantage of embedded iPaaS systems (and Paragon) is that they are very flexible: They let you run any API request with the external API (with a generic “API request” workflow step), so you get full access to the external API. They also handle authorization, scheduling and incoming webhooks for you.
But they don’t offer unified data models and every integration needs to be built one by one. Bulk data handling can also be tricky, as the workflow paradigm does not map well to larger data streams (e.g. syncing 10,000+ contacts).
When to Choose Paragon Instead of Merge.dev?
Here’s when you should consider choosing Paragon over Merge.dev:
- You are looking for a low-code workflow builder to accommodate engineering and non-engineering users alike
- You need full access to the external APIs of your vendors
- The pre-built workflow steps align well with your (planned) integrations
- You are looking to integrate APIs from different categories (and fewer APIs within the same category)
Key Figures on Paragon
- Number of supported APIs: ~100
- Number and examples of supported API categories: 21, including HRIS, ATS, Social Media, Office Suite, and more.
- Customization options: Support for new APIs and pre-built workflow steps can only be added by Paragon.
- Pricing: No free tier, with the basic plan offering only three integrations for 50 users. Other pricing plans are quote-based.
Merge.dev Alternative 4: Embedded Tray.io
Tray Embedded is an embedded iPaaS offering by the automation giant Tray.io, that allows you to build integrations into your app through two methods—Native and Integrations Manager.
Similar to Paragon, Tray provides you with pre-built building steps and enables you to pair it up with your custom business logic and workflows. This is particularly helpful when you have enterprise customers and need to build bespoke, on-off integrations for specific customers. Naturally, Tray does not prioritise the “unified data model” concept compared to other tools on this list.
When to Choose Tray.io Instead of Merge.dev?
Tray can be a great alternative to Merge in the following cases:
- You are looking to build bespoke, one-off integrations for specific customers.
- You want to customise the integration for specific customers and change how they work with your product.
Key Figures on embedded Tray.io
- Number of supported APIs: ~110
- Number and examples of supported API categories: 9, including Customer Success, HR, Marketing, etc.
- Customization options: You are limited to the steps and APIs that Tray has developed. Generic steps for “make any API request” exist.
- Pricing: Need to get a demo and contact the sales team for a quote
Choosing the right platform for your product integrations is an important infrastructure decision for every B2B SaaS.
The right product integrations platform accelerates your time to market, helps you ship the integrations your customers need and lets you close more deals.
We hope this overview of four popular Merge.dev alternatives has been helpful for you.
If you are still unsure which approach to integrations is the best for you, check the Nango slack community for help and recommendations. It has more than 800 developers and product managers building integrations at B2B SaaS products.
See you there!