Library of Modular Services

I'm always looking for simpler and more concise language to describe API, while writing stories and white papers for my audience. I recently used the phrase "library of modular web services", in a presentation outline at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This white paper was intended for a non-technical, state government audience, and my collaborator on the presentation asked if I could dumb this phrase down a little for the audience, providing a simpler explanation.

In this case, I think certain phrases get co-opted by the developer and IT crowd, borrowing from the physical world, resulting in them having a perceived technical meaning, but when in reality they are still very rooted in their past, and can be easily explained by taking users back to their previous meanings. One perfect example of this is the phrase, a "Library of Modular Services".

Think of each book, in a physical library as an analogy of a single API service. Much like when building an application on top of API services, when you are developing a research paper in a library, you need a multitude of resources to bring your paper together. When you visit the library to conduct your research you can browse the library directory, find a wide variety of books you will need. Early on you will be testing out many of these books, then setting aside the books that do not deliver the value and information you are looking for.

When you find the specific resources you need, this is when the modular approach comes into play. For example, if you need a book on a specific artist from history, you aren't required to check-out the entire art history section, or even check-out all impressionists artists, you can go for a very specific artist like Monet or pick and choose from the impressionist resources you need.

Using this library analogy for API services works very well. As a company or organization, instead of just going to IT to get technical services, you can visit your library of modular services to find exactly the resources you need for your project. Maybe your project is just creating a quarterly report, or maybe you want to create a visualization of product sales, all the way to launching a new mobile application.

To support employess in their work, each company should have a library where anyone in the can visit, browse, search and discovery the resources they will need for any project. This library can then be extended to have more marketplace features allowing external partners or even the public to come and browse the library of modular resources, just like they would the public library--allowing them to find just the services they need.