Application programming interfaces that allow outsiders to create applications that link to core company services are likely to become a requirement, not an option, in the future economy.That's one conclusion from a study of 24 companies that have experience in implementing APIs. The leading example of a successful API implementation is Google's issuance of a public API for Google Maps. The API allowed outside developers to build applications that tap Google Maps to show the locations of businesses and services.
In perhaps one of the more counter-intuitive surveys to be published this year, commissioned by developer tools maker Apigee, a majority of businesses interviewed whose IT departments are currently managing API-intensive development projects say that integration with social networking sites is the least of their concerns.Though the interview was limited to only 24 companies (leaving some doubt as to whether the sample size is adequate enough), the Web API study published by Hurwitz & Associates shows only 12% (3 firms) registering "expanding to social networking sites" as an important motivating factor for adopting APIs in applications.
For businesses, APIs are clearly evolving from a nice-to-have to a must-have. Externalization of back-end functionality so that apps can interact with systems, not just people, has become critical. As we move into 2012, several API trends are emerging.
It was just over a decade ago that businesses were still wondering why it was necessary to have a Web site. Now it's a foregone conclusion that they are one of the most important touchpoints for any organization to possess. Fast forward to the last few years, and businesses are now -- in the same way they did with Web sites -- beginning to come to terms with the concept of the open API, and how it is turning out to be just as vital to the long-term success of their business.
For most of the past year, I have worked with two brilliant experts on APIs, Daniel Jacobson, at Netflix and Greg Brail, CTO of Apigee, to create a book that clearly explains the value of APIs. In researching the book, APIs: A Strategy Guide, we talked to dozens of other smart people who had led the creation of APIs for both internal and external use.One of the most striking findings was how often API programs were started in secret, nurtured by the true believers in a clandestine way, slipped into production, and then brought to the awareness of senior management after the API was shown to be a success.
”OAuth allows an application to act as an intermediary to services like Twitter – etcetera - on behalf of the end user,” he said. This type of token service for site hopping is a key mark of the Web 2.0 and the so-called ”App Economy” today. “We couldn’t have done this years ago,” said Ramji.
As you may have guessed, GigaOm's Mobilize Conference is all about mobile devices and applications. But the real story here are the trends seen in the future of mobile. We've raced so quickly into our own future, via iPhones and tablets, that it can sometimes feel as though whatever's next is completely elusive. But as Mobilize's numerous talks have shown, the future is all about the repercussions of everyone having computers in their pockets.
Amazon Web Services was a game-changer for application developers. Suddenly, budding entrepreneurs no longer had to install and maintain their own servers--they could just plug into the Amazon system. That lowered costs and barriers to entry for many companies, and it helped foster the current tech boom. Today, AT&T is releasing a set of tools for developers that will help push that boom further.
What has dramatically accelerated the power of cloud-based apps and service platforms over the past two years is their embrace of Web services protocols. Using RESTful function calls with which developers are already familiar, they can request functionality from live, cloud-based servers that can deliver results in a form they can immediately put to use - HTML elements, or JSON or XML data.