We are all immersed in the API economy, either strategically and intentionally or unavoidably and unconsciously. The API economy is a term used to describe how APIs can meaningfully affect an organisation’s profitability by being a provider or consumer. Such effects on profitability are evident both for companies which allow developers to plug into their systems, and for small businesses that use API access to develop applications which enhance the functionality of existing services.
The past few years, however, have seen such explosive growth that the API landscape is evolving more rapidly than ever before. Like “big data” and “the cloud” did before them, APIs are enjoying mass exposure and appeal to companies and individuals beyond core groups of developers. APIs are nothing new. Salesforce and eBay first allowed access to their web APIs 20 years ago, and other organisations were tinkering with the idea of exposing endpoints even before that. Today, a firm without application program interfaces - APIs - that allow software programs to interact with each other is like the internet without the World Wide Web. Just as the World Wide Web opened up the internet’s potential for use by billions, APIs are allowing companies to grow businesses at unprecedented rates by sharing services with external firms and people.
Let’s look at some use cases because this will help to demonstrate the usefulness of APIs to the general population.
Social Media is front of mind. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat are on billions of smartphones in use across the world. Countless mobile services are built on APIs to the extent that they rely on them to function properly making multiples of billions of API calls a day.
IoT or Internet of Things is a notable use case for APIs because it represents another area in which the general public will become more familiar with the inner workings of APIs. We have rapidly adopted smart wearables that track and validate our every move and statistic, and ensures Strava reflects this as well as our hallowed Vitality Active Rewards. This narrative suggests that there’s definitely an audience for the sort of hyperconnected world that the Internet of Things promises.
Finance is an arena that has been very slow to warm up to new technology. However, enough banks and financial institutions have been disrupted in the market place by new agile and forward thinking operators who cultivate and embrace change. There are some exciting developments in FinTech. APIs are changing the face of personal banking – as well as that of the financial space more generally – with quicker onboarding processes, partnerships and better integration with other services representing just a few of the changes that have taken place in recent years. APIs also have a vital role to play in the world of cryptocurrency who use APIs to provide wallets that can store bitcoin in one place enabling users to build apps to process transactions, forward payments and create different types of secure wallets. But we will park this topic for another day.
Just some fun API examples to explore
Star Wars API
All the Star Wars data you've ever wanted: Planets, Spaceships, Vehicles, People, Films and Species
Try it out
Current ISS Location
The International Space Station is moving at close to 28,000 km/h so its location changes really fast! Where is it right now?
Try it out
The Google APIs Explorer is is a tool that helps you explore various Google APIs interactively.
Try it out
The API landscape is huge and it is difficult to know where to begin with APIs but start and you will discover that building and integrating APIs creates awareness. Most large organisations do not possess an awareness of where all of their digital assets live, and what their organisations are capable of on any given day. APIs help quantify these resources and capabilities, and if done right, provide us with a way to define, document, share, collaborate, and integrate using these digital resources.
Inviting more people to the discussion, making API’s an organisational wide affair, helps develop awareness of what is possible. It helps break down the walls that exist within organisations, and externally with our partners and customers. Your API journey will lead you towards a new future and will equip you with new capabilities. You will be much more confident about what you currently possess, what you will need to equip your organisation for the future, and how you will deliver the next generation of capabilities that are needed to get you where you need to be.