Hypermedia Adoption Will Not Be About The Perfect API Client

As I’m working to add yet another API example to my growing list of hypermedia APIs in the wild, I can't help but think about the long evolution of hypermedia, and how it will eventually become part of the mainstream API consciousness.

I first started following the often heated discussions around hypermedia a couple years ago as leading API technologists began discussing this significant evolution in API design. Hypermedia has numerous benefits and features, but one you often hear in discussions is that if we use hypermedia we can stop designing custom clients that consume APIs.

The logic is that if every API call comes bundled with URLs for discovering and navigating the resources that are made available via an API, clients can just use this as a blueprint for any app to API interactions. This became a fairly large argument between hypermedia architects and hypermedia haters, something that I think turned a lot of people off to the concept, forcing us to stick with many of the bad habits we already knew.

As I review these new hypermedia APIs, few of them are perfect by any hypermedia measurement, but they use the sensible portions of hypermedia discovery and navigation to deliver a better API experience for developers. I don't think API providers are doing it because of the perfect hypermedia vision we've heard articulated in the past, they are borrowing the pieces that make sense to them and that meet their goals.

Someday we may achieve a world where API clients aren't custom, with every application automatically knowing how to discover, interact, and navigate any API resource it will need. However I think in the currently reality, we will see hypermedia being adopted because it just makes sense as a next step for sensible API design, and this is how we should communicate it to curious API designers, looking to understand exactly what is this concept called hypermedia.