A Missed Opportunity With The Medium API
13 Jan 2017
In addition to using the news of Medium's downsizing as a moment to stop and think about who owns our bits, I wanted to point out what a missed opportunity the Medium API is. Having an API is no guarantee of success, and after $132M in 3 Rounds from 21 Investors, I'm not sure an API can even help out, but it is fun to speculate about what might be possible if Medium had robust API in operation.
Medium has an API, but it is just a Github repository, with reference to a handful of paths allowing you to get details on yourself, the publications you are part of, and post entries to the site. There are no APIs for allowing me to get the posts of other users, or publications, let alone any of the analytics, or traffic for this. I'm guessing there is no API vision or champion at Medium, which results in the simple, restrictive API we see today.
Many media and content companies see APIs as giving away all the value they are trying to monetize, and are unaware of the control that modern approaches to API management bring to the table. Many people see the pain that other API pioneers have suffered like Twitter, and want to avoid the same problems, completely unaware that many of Twitter's ecosystem problems were Twitter-induced and not inflicted by 3rd party developer.
If Medium had a proper developer portal, complete set of API paths, proper OAuth controls, and other API management tooling, they could open up innovation in content delivery, publishing, analytics, visualizations, voice, bot, and the numerous of other areas where APIs are changing how we consume, create, and engage with information. I get that control over the user experience is key to the Medium model, but there are examples of how this can be done well, and still have an API. The best part is it only costs you the operation of the API operations.
I do not think more money will save Medium. I think they have to innovate. I think part of this innovation needs to come from the passionate base of users they have already developed. I've seen Medium carefully plot out a path forward when it comes their trusted partners, and there is no reason this type of quality control can't be replicated when it comes to API consumers, as well as the applications and integrations that they develop. The Medium API just seems like a really huge missed opportunity to me, but of course, I'm a little biased.