My API 101 Workshop At @APIStrat In Chicago Next Week
20 Sep 2014
I’m working on the details of my API 101 workshop with Kirsten Hunter (@synedra) next week. She is delivering most of the content for the 2 hour workshop, as she has evolved a pretty sophisticated set of API 101 materials. My contribution will be from my history of APIs, and my API trends material, helping people understand the how we got here, and some thoughts on where we are going.
History of APIs
As I continue to make sense of the API space, I'm evolving my history of APIs story, adding and consolidating areas that I think have significantly contributed to the overall growth of the API space. While I track on 100+ categories, or business sectors, in which I think APIs are being applied in some interesting ways, I feel these seven areas are the cornerstones of the app, and its underlying API economy.
- Commerce - Beginning with API pioneers like Salesforce, eBay, and Amazon to payment leaders like Stripe, and Paypal.
- Social - Teach us how to share, interact in collaborate with Deliciious, Facebook, and Twitter, to more recently Google+.
- Cloud - Amazon forever chagned how we will use APIs, enabling us to go beyond hobby, and actually deploy global infrastructure using web APis.
- Geo - Google Maps brought the resources web and mobile developers would need, and Census, MapBox, and others are pushing forward a valulable stack of geo API resources.
- Media - Flickr brought the businesses of APis into the mainstream consciousness, and Instgram, YouTube, and others stream rich media into our worlds via APIs.
- Messaging - Twilio, Sendgrid, and other messaging APIs provide valuable resources for developers, and also show the rest of us API providers how to manage and evangelize your APIs right.
While there are definitely other valuable API resources that are contributing to the success of the space, these six areas represent the bedrock of the app, and API economy. You can find these areas playing a role in two major channels for delivering applications.
I do not think we can adequately talk about the history of APIs without discussion the motivations for deploying, and consuming APIs in the categories listed above. Historically there as been two main areas motivating companies to put APIs to work:
- Web - Delivering valuable data and content byeond just a single website, and allowing distribution to hundreds, or thousands of websites using APIs is of growing importance in a globally distributed Internet fueled economy.
- Mobile - Mobile is outpacing web, as the number of reason for deploying, and consuming APIs. Simple web APIs are well suited for deliverin gthe resources need to develop mobile applications.
There are definitely other motivations for deploying APIs, but when we start labeling something as a definite part of history, I think these areas dominate. In 2014 I think mobile has definitely overtook web as a driving force, but distributed data, content, and other compute resources web still plays an important role.
At the same moment I’m trying to understand the past, I’m also working hard to understand where we are going, based upon what companies are up to in the API space. I also track on six other interesting areas, that I’m closely watching, adding new players, trying to understand what their bringing to the table, and putting them into buckets I’m calling API trends.
- Aggregation - Bringing together several APIs into a single, aggregate endpoint. Example could be bringing together image APIs from Flickr, Instagram, and Facebook into a single resource.
- Reciprocity - The forward motion of extract, transform, and load (ETL) into a more cloud-centric environment. IFTTT and Zapier are leading in this new world of moving valuable resources, around the globe, using the open Internet.
- Realtime - Some APis require more than just a basic request / response approach, resulting in a variety of real-time technologies from prototcols like XMPP or Web Sockets, to frameworks like Firebase, and Fanout.io.
- Voice / Speech - Apple's Siri embodies this latest wave of voice enabled APis, providing the sources you need to bridge the physical world of speech to a vast array of digital resources made available via APis.
- Single Page Apps (SPA) - Moving forward the web channel, and delivering simple, single page applications using common frameworks, and API resources to deliver data, content, and other digital resources needed for these SPAs.
- Internet of Things (IoT) - Using simple web APIs to deliver and consume information from physical objects, in our homes, businesses, and spread across public and private spaces.
Some of these trends are beginning to get baked directly into some SaaS, PaaS, and API platforms I’m tracking on. Each of these trends are delivering value in different ways depending on which industry your looking at, such as real-time might be more important to financial APIs over regular business listing APIs. Areas like IoT are already expanding beyond just label into wearables, automobile, and other fast moving, but currently niche areas.
Even with the innovation in all of these areas by a handful of tech giants, and the long tail of tech startups, the space is slowly maturing in two key areas, which in the future will become bedrock cornerstones for the entire app and API economies. These areas are slowly maturing, and not moving as fast as some of the other areas I’m tracking on, but will be critical to the future of the API economy.
- Government - Federal, state, and city governments are opening up data, and APIs at an increasing pace, making some very valuable resources available to developers. Government APIs will be fuel to the app, and its underlying API economy, in coming years.
- Enterprise - The largest companies in the world are slowly beginning to see the potential of evolving their SOA approach to include an API-centric approach to delivering products and services It will take the enterprise to truly scale the API economy into the next decade.
I’d say that we are only 2-4 years into these layers tot he API economy, and there is a ton of work to do. We need leaders in these space to step up and help evangelize a sensible approach to APIs in their industry, but we also need the rest of the API space to be patient, and also contribute to helping guide government of all sizes, large enterprises, and institutions in understanding the tech, business, and politics of APIs.
Maybe I'm biased, because I've been tracking on the API space for a while now, but I’m pretty happy to see things maturing, and after 14 years of playing around with web services, and more recently APIs, I feel good that we are moving past the wild west, and beginning to stabilize things a little bit, while still also experimenting with API trends in some pretty exciting (and scary) ways.