The API Opportunity

An API helps to connect colleagues, partners, or third party developers to access data and services to build applications quickly.

Pioneering companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple and Twitter have created wonderful technological solutions to the public using APIs. The use of APIs by these large companies has also helped transform existing businesses and fostered new ideas and industries as well. The success of these ventures is largely by virtue of APIs that link people, their devices and the underlying platforms together. This supports a rich partner ecosystem by enabling developer applications and thereby increasing the sales force.

As the world steps into the era of internet traffic explosion, statistics points towards increased Smartphone sales, improved wireless connectivity and faster internet. This implies a huge shift towards applications and devices. Looking at these trends it is very easy to surmise that APIs will likely power most of the internet traffic in a few years.

An API is like a contract. Once such a contract is in place, developers are enticed to use the API more because the contract increases confidence and reliability. Many people draw parallels to a website while visualizing APIs but an API is quite different from a website.

If you dramatically redesign a website, the only impact is on the user being accustomed to the layout of the content. However, you cannot change the API that way because programs are built on top of it, and programs – unlike humans – are not flexible. If you alter anything in the contract of the API, the potential of its effect upon the apps built is amplified. So, APIs must be treated like software products including the following notions in consideration:

  • Versioning
  • Compatibility
  • Documentation
  • Maintainability
  • Scalability
  • Availability

There are two types of API

  1. Private API
  2. Public API

Private APIs are the more prevalent variety. Popular companies like Facebook and Twitter, make much more extensive use of their own APIs to drive their websites, mobile applications and other products. This use of an API often proves to be more valuable as it supports internal efforts as well as partner relationships – used by staff and by partners with contractual agreements.

Public APIs are available almost to anyone with little or no contractual agreement with the API provider. Often a company starts with a private API and eventually open up some or all of it for public access, probably with some restrictions.

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