June 14th, 2013 E-Learning


The elearning world has been waiting for the release of the new API that is promising to break down the barriers that the clunky SCORM protocols cannot overcome.  This light weight standard is more in line with our mobile devices, and frees-up browser restrictions – acknowledge that learning can take place outside of a browser window.


While this new protocol is proving to be rather exciting, it is suffering from an identity crisis that is hindering its general adoption.  To date, I am aware of the following names for this new API:

  • TinCAn API
  • TAPI
  • Experience API
  • xAPI

There are a few others, but these are the four major version that I have come across.  If we want to narrow it down further, it appears that the community is struggling to decided whether it should be called TinCan API (a name championed by Rustici Software) or Experience API (a name supported by Advanced Distributive Learning).

From a marketing standpoint, TinCan API has seen more traction because it has been around a bit longer.  This was the unofficial name given to the project when it first started.  Personally, I think this is a rather silly name as it is difficult to demonstrate any credibility in consulting arrangements talking about tin cans… but that’s neither here nor there.

Rustici Software, the folks who helped pioneer the SCORM protocol that we are all used to, is really pushing for TinCan API.  I suppose this makes sense. They own the domain name (tincanapi.com), much like they own scorm.com.  It gives them a very strong position in the market as the go-to shop for all things TinCan.  Advanced Distributive Learning (a division of the U.S. government), the organization responsible for commissioning this new protocol to be developed, are pushing for Experience API.  If I had to pick based on name alone, I would go with Experience API (for no other reason than it doesn’t sound like a children’s book title).

That said, TinCan API is what we have chosen to go with when describing the functionality to LearnDash customers.  However, we may consider the switch, as more organizations are starting to adopt the Experience label.  Ultimately, I think that the final name will depend on what the major rapid elearning development programs call it (Articulate Storyline in particular). If Articulate and/or Adobe Captivate call it TinCan – that’s probably what will stick.

Still, I can’t help but wish that it was just called SCORM 2.0.  People who aren’t familiar with elearning are often familiar to some degree with “SCORM”… and the moniker  “2.0” carries its own implications as enhanced, improved, better, and new.

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About Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Justin's Homepage | Twitter

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Good post. Just as a reference point you may be interested in Mike Rustici’s post here:


it probably should be mentioned when pointing out the domain name, that Rustici owns http://experienceapi.com too so that it really is more about existing name adoption than domain ownership.

Thanks for sharing the link Brian

I love Rustici Software and we have worked with Mike Rustici for about ten years now. We are partnering with them in a big way to add the Experience API to our product offerings. So, you see that I prefer the more generic Experience API (or its acronym, xAPI). I do not see a crisis here. Rustici will continue to use their brand name when they talk about it; however, the driving force (and funding force) behind it is ADL, and they have officially named it the Experience API. That is the name that I use, with an occasional reference to the fact that this is the official name of the product that came out of the Tin Can API design and development project.

Avatar Dave Smith

Hi Justin,

Thanks for sharing. I have to say that Experience API says so much more.. The software development community loves (I am part of that) acronyms that do not say anything and therefore I would recommend the Experience API is much better and easier to remember….

Good post Justin, and a good explanation too – we at sweetrush.com often engage in conversation about Tin Can, and naturally folks getting more confused as time passes and the names multiply.

However folks getting even more confused as time passes and the hype growth, yet the practical application of Tin Can remains limited due to the lack of support from the LMSystems. So first and foremost – thank you for providing the Tin Can support!

Interestingly enough though, it looks like you did not bother to provide backward support for the SCORM courses, is this correct? If it is, I am sure this was a strategic move on your part, but won’t this potentially hinder the popularity and usability of your system?

Hi Misha-
Thanks for the comment. Correct, trying to backfill SCORM ultimately isn’t worth it, especially given the incompatibility issues it faces with today’s technology. TinCan/Experience will gain momentum, and the legacy SCORM models will certainly become less in demand. Yeah, in some ways adoption is hindered by us choosing to move away from old SCORM models, but in the end it would have hurt our value proposition.

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