APIs are everywhere. API or Application Programming Interface is hailed as the future of communication in the Internet of Things where appliances, software and people will become increasingly interconnected. But how do you explain what an API is for instance to your non-technically minded mother? How do you explain that they may become a big part of her life in the near future, taking into consideration the fact that she only got her first mobile phone a couple of years ago.
The leading API evangelist Kin Lane defines API in his blog: “An API — Application Programming Interface — at its most basic level, allows your product or service to talk to other products or services. In this way, an API allows you to open up data and functionality to other developers, to other businesses or even between departments and locations within your company. It is increasingly the way in which companies exchange data, services and complex resources, both internally, externally with partners, and openly with the public.”
An example of successful utilization of an API is Google Analytics Core Reporting API which allows tech-savvy folks extract any or all of their Google Analytics report data and serves as a basis for building bespoke apps. Developers with the correct authorization get access to processed Google Analytics data and get to use it in ways the current user interface doesn’t allow. Brian Clifton in his book “Advanced Web Metrics” gives the basics of how to use Google Analytics Core Reporting API.
If we try to explain APIs in human terms it’s like opening up to new people in your life to give them a glimpse of your true colours without letting them ‘hack the core’. Your personal ‘API’ allows you to build mutually beneficial relationships with others, but you still have control over how close you become with all these strangers.
Opening up improves communication and makes bonds stronger, but giving everything away without asking for anything in return would be unwise. API management services (like Apigee and 3scale) are doing precisely that – letting businesses open up to the world just enough by limiting access to their APIs in order to monetize them.
API managers are trying to convince us that APIs will become mainstream quite soon. 3scale’s Steve Willmott and author Craig Burton came up with 5 axioms of API economy:
1. Everything and everyone will be API enabled.
2. APIs are core to every cloud, social and mobile computing strategy.
3. APIs are an economic imperative.
4. Organizations must provide their core competence through APIs.
5. Organizations must consume core competences of others through APIs.
The authors of the axioms themselves admit that the thoughts are ‘raw’ and invite open discussion. Personally I’m curious about how they see individuals become ‘API enabled’, unless they mean it in a metaphorical sense. Or perhaps what they mean is that the number of devices we rely on will become so large and our dependence of them so serious that we will become API-dependent, rather than API-enabled.
Maybe when trying to explain to my mother what an API is I should say that in the near future her mobile phone will be able to communicate with her fridge and she will not necessarily be part of the conversation… (image: wilgegebroed.nl)