The API Journey Or What Is the Point of an API, By Tony Hirst (@psychemedia)
09 Mar 2015
Tony Hirst (@psychemedia) wrote an interesting story about what I would consider the API journey, which he called, “What’s The Point Of An API?”. I’m the first to call bullshit on the term API, which is more storytelling magic than it ever was technical, for me. In my opinion, the point of an API is rarely ever the actual technical implementation—sorry devs. ;-( The point of the API is the journey, for the API provider, and the API consumer (both dev and end-user).
The point of the API is about the API provider reducing friction, when it comes to understanding, and put to work, valuable digital assets from data, content, to more programmatic, algorithmic elements like image filtering or video encoding, to more physical elements like a Nest thermostat, webcam access, or drone controls. An API does not automatically equal success, it take so much more than just launching an API to establish something that delivers value, and is sustainable--something that can be easier said than done, in todays volatile, digital environment.
The point of an API is about the API consumers having the freedom to discover, access, explore, and put to use valuable digital resources that they couldn’t deliver on their own, in new and interesting ways. Developers need to be part of a feedback loop with API providers that helps iterate APIs, and evolve APIs towards being more experience based beyond their resource oriented roots, and integrate them in meaningful ways into the systems, apps, and devices end-users depend on the most.
The point of an API is about empowering the end-user with applications that deliver value, all while opening up as much of the backend, and the pipes that are delivering valuable API driven resources, giving end-users a voice throughout the supply chain, using open formats like oAuth—bringing much needed transparency to the process. This isn’t just about tech, it is also about developing sustainable businesses built around applications that are truly deliver value, which along a way also protect the interests, security, and privacy of the end-user.
The API is not purely the technical elements, it is made up of the technical, business, and political building blocks, which includes the documentation, SDK, terms of service, pricing, and the many other essential aspects of API operations. APIs are definitely made up of the API projections into the users environment, and back-again, facilitating a real-time journey, that if done right, can benefit the API platform, developers who build upon it, and the end-users who ultimately define what the point of any API is.