Why APIs Are Just The Next Step Of The Web And Not The Latest Trend
31 Aug 2016
I am always amazed at the amount of hype, rhetoric, and FUD that is stirred up by analysts, vendors, and the tech blogosphere when it comes to APIs. APIs are the next big wave in vendor solutions! APIs are going away because of bots! People love to build them up to be something they are not, something which I mostly blame vendors, venture capital investment, and the analysts and tech blogosphere for stirring this pot to meet their objectives.
To help cut through the BS, I like to always have a basic demonstration of what an API is handy, and its relationship to the web, in hopes that I will educate the muggles (my new word--thanks @caseysoftware), and balance the BS scales a bit as we go along. To help do this I wanted to provide you with three types of common resources that you find on the web, each with four basic ways of representing them using web technology.
All three of these resources are available at a demonstration website I have set up at website.apievangelist.com, with each resource available in their respective folders /blog, /products, and /services. Using the links below you can click on the different representations of each on, and the results should show in the text area below.
- Blog (HTML) (RSS) (XML) (JSON)
- Products (HTML) (RSS) (XML) (JSON)
- Services (HTML) (RSS) (XML) (JSON)
The only technology driving this is the basic website setup on a simple Linux (Fedora) web server, running Apache to deliver the website--nothing else. The only difference between a website and API is that a website returns HTML meant for humans, and API (representations) return XML, JSON, RSS, meant for other applications and systems--that is ALL. There is no vendor voodoo, it is just about returning the same information, but meant for use in other websites, mobile applications, systems integrations, and increasingly device based solutions.
The FUD I hear about APIs going away, or just being a trend always make me chuckle. These claims always sound just like the folks who used to tell me in 1998 and 1999 about the web being a fad--what do these claims sound like in 2016? Is delivering HTML to humans going away, any more so than delivering JSON to mobile devices, or IoT devices? What will go away and change are people's delusions around open APIs, and specific vendor and VC centric views on what is API--not delivering machine-readable representations of data, content, media, and algorithms that are already driving the human web experience.
Once you realize that an API is just the next step in the evolution of the web, and is about negotiating exactly the representation of a digital resource that you desire--you will begin to see things a little differently. When you see APIs as the web, and not as any particular API provider, or service providers vision of API, you will find the world looks a lot different, and that APIs aren't going anywhere--no matter what they are called in future iterations. The will always be programmatic interfaces meant for other applications.