The quips “You are what you eat” and “You are what you read” capture a universal truth: for better or worse your actions define your persona. As of 2013, I believe, “eat” and “read” in these quips will be superseded by “expose.” The APIs you choose to expose will define the kind of services you, your company or your company’s eco-system will be able to offer. It is going to be an “APIs beget services” pattern rather than “Services beget APIs.”
If you think I am smoking something strong, take a look at the recent articles Cutter published on the API Economy (click here, here and here). Perhaps the most striking piece in these articles is the figure from ProgrammableWeb pasted below, showing the growth pattern of public APIs, i.e. those that have been exposed (as distinct from internal APIs). Extrapolating the pattern indicated in this figure to next year, we could expect something like 10,000 exposed API’s at one point in time or another during 2013.
This forthcoming API explosion changes the nature of your company’s assets. The assets might be physical, but they have corresponding information representations that are potentially valuable to numerous applications. For example, various users are already spawning off bazaars on top of the Instagram photo sharing service (click here and here for recent articles on the subject). Imagine the limitless possibilities that could open if/when an advertising API is exposed in the Instagram application(s). Needless to say, other kinds of APIs that might be exposed by Instagram could be very tempting…
The nature of the phenomenon we are examining here is not restricted to photos/images. Rather, it is generic. Regardless of the physical nature of your company’s assets, any information about them that flows through the “pipes” of your company is potentially a productive asset. It can be utilized (once an API is exposed) through an app store that mines the information for its flow, currency, accuracy, relevance, etc.
Historically, decisions about APIs and their design were largely the realm of programmers. Over the past few years they became more and more the realm of marketers. Expect them to soon become the “stuff” that business designs are made of.
[Editor’s Note: This post is part of the annual “Cutter Predicts …” series.]