API Management In Real-Time Instead Of After The Media Shitstorm
07 May 2018
I have been studying API management for eight years now. I’ve spent a lot of time understanding the approach of leading API providers, and the services and tools put out there by API service providers from 3Scale to Tyk, and how the cloud service providers like AWS are baking API management into their clouds. API management isn’t the most exciting aspect of doing APIs, but I feel it is one of the most important elements of doing APIs, delivering on the business and politics of doing APIs, which can often make or break a platform and the applications that depend on it.
Employing a common API management solution, and having a solid plan in place, takes time and investment. To do it properly takes lots of regular refinement, investment, and work. It is something that will often seem unnecessary–having to review applications, get to know developers, and consider how they fit into the picture picture. Making it something that can easily be to pushed aside for other tasks on a regular basis–until it is too late. This is frequently the case when your API access isn’t properly aligned with your business model, and there are no direct financial strings attached attached to new API users, or a line distinguishing active from inactive users, let alone governing what they can do with data, content, and algorithms that are made accessible via APIs.
The API management layer is where the disconnect between API providers and consumers occur. It is also where the connection, and meaningful engagement occurs when done right. In most cases API providers aren’t being malicious, they are just investing in the platform as their leadership has directed, and acting upon the stage their business model has set into motion. If your business model is advertising, then revenue is not directly connected to your API consumption, and you just turn on the API faucet to let in as many consumers as you can possibly attract. Your business model doesn’t require that you play gatekeeper, qualify, or get to know your API developers, or the applications they are developing. This is what we’ve seen with Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms who are experiencing challenges at the API management layer lately, due to a lack of management over the last 5+ years.
There was no incentive for Facebook or Twitter to review applications, audit their consumption, or get to know their usage patterns. The business model is an indirect one, so investment at the API management layer is not a priority. They only respond to situations once it begins to hurt their image, and potentially rise up to begin to hurt their bottom line. The problem with this type of behavior is that other API providers see this and think this is a problem with doing APIs, and do not see it as a problem with not doing API management. That having a business model which is sensibly connected to your API usage, and a team who is actively managing and engaging with your API consumers is how you deal with these challenges. If you manage your API properly, you are dealing with negative situations early on, as opposed to waiting until there is a media shitstorm before you start reigning in API consumption on your platform.
Sensible API management is something I’ve been writing about for eight years. It is something I will continue to write about for many more years, helping companies understand the importance of doing it correctly, and being proactive rather than reactive. I’ll also be regularly writing about the subject to help API consumers understand the dangers of using platforms that do not have a clear business model, as it is usually a sign of this API management disconnect I’m talking about. It is something that will ultimately cause problems down the road, and contribute to platform instability, and APIs potentially being limited or shuttered as part of these reactionary responses we are seeing from Facebook and Twitter currently. I know that my views of API management are out of sync with popular notions of how you incentivize exponential growth on a platform, but my views are in alignment with healthy API ecosystems, successful API consumers, and reliable API providers who are around for the long term.