Balancing Commercial, Non-Commercial, Privacy and Ownership In The World of APIs11 Jul 2013
I just spent 30 minutes on the phone with an important group in the European Union called OPENi, which is aiming to be an open-source, web-based, framework for integrating applications with cloud-based services via APIs. Straight from the organization's mouth:
OPENi aims at inspiring innovation in the European mobile applications industry, by radically improving the interoperability of cloud-based services and trust in personal cloud storage through the development of a consumer-centric, open source mobile cloud applications platform.
I will be providing feedback and guidance as a member of the group's user advisory board. While on the call today, there was a mention of concerns around being seen as the usual, heavy handed EU entity that is too focused on user privacy and ownership, which could prevent the group from being well received, but also ignore the economic opportunities APIs and interoperability afford businesses, developers and end users.
This is a reminder for me of how EU tech companies, and the countries where they reside, are often perceived around the globe and here in the US. But also stands in stark contrast to the illness I see from the Silicon Valley, and U.S side of the discussion. In a world where everything is about economic opportunity, and the data in these API pipes are the new oil, aka the new resource, that is meant to be extracted, with little or no concern for privacy and ownership of the end-users.
In 2014, there is a huge opportunity for all of us to meet in the middle, acknowledging that there is great economic opportunity around APIs, cloud services, interoperability and the data that flows between platforms. But there is even greater economic opportunity if we acknowledge and respect the privacy, ownership of users of the web, mobile and Internet of Things we develop in the cloud.
I would also add a 3rd dimension to this discussion. That there is also a massive non-commercial opportunity for APIs, interoperability and cloud services. When it comes to more efficient government, healthcare, education, journalism, media and other aspects of our society, if we can better educate end-users, developers and platform owners while also improve technological approaches by honing concepts like hypermedia, licensing and ownership models defined on top of oAuth--everyone in the game will benefit.
There is a lot at stake right now. It isn't black or white, but many, may shades of gray. It is not all about privacy and ownership, or all about making money. APIs enable interoperability, data portability, transparency and openness that can really benefit society as well as open up opportunities for economic growth for everyone involved.
Even after 3 years doing this, I still get very hopeful for the potential of APIs on the global landscape. I predict 2014 will be a critical year.