I just talked with Dave Devitt (@sydcon), President at SYDCON Web Development, Inc. in Chicago about how his web and mobile development shop sees the world APIs. I’m always on the hunt for stories about how the everyday person on the ground at startups, all the way up to the federal government, actually see the world of APIs, and I was pleased that Dave could make some time to share his view of APIs with me.
First, Dave said something I found very interesting when we first started our conversation. He said they were a “web development shop”, not in the the sense that they build websites, but that they develop applications that use the web for their operations. I think this is an important distinction when we start putting developers into buckets, and it isn’t always as straightforward as building websites, web applications, mobile, single page or Internet of Things apps—we are now building software that uses the Internet for communication, something that will inevitably use all of these channels (and more).
When it comes to API usage at SYDCON, they primarily use what we all call public APIs for driving commerce. Whether it is B2B or B2C, Dave’s team is using APIs to sell products, integrate with payment systems like Authorize.net and PayPal, activating and validating of gift cards. Whether it is the nature of development or just a reflection on the type of customers SYDCON has, commerce is a pretty clear motivator for public API integration. The modern web API movement was started by commerce platforms like Amazon, eBay, and Paypal, and 14 years in it makes sense that commerce is a major driver of development at smaller develop shops.
Beyond commerce, the main usage of APIs at SYDCON is about opening up access to internal resources that exist within their client systems, and making them available to buid apps on top of. Dave provided an example of a oil & gas worker who uses one of the mobile applications they’ve developed to scan the barcode of a 4 inch PVC pipe, and using an API the mobile application is then able to access the company’s internal product database and return information to the worker looking to get their job done, with the assistance of the mobile app they've developed. APIs are how they deliver the resources they need for the mobile applications they develop for their customers. Period. It can be products in a database, or media across servers, APIs are how these reousrces are delivered to the web enabled applications SYDCON delivers.
It was good to hear the stories from Dave at SYDCON, and understand what API usage looks like on the ground at a Chicago area application dev shop. I think we can easily get blind to what the mainstream developers are needing when it comes to APIs, being so close to the Silicon Valley echo chamber, as well as playing a part in some of the bleeding edge aspects of the API sector. Talking with people like Dave who actually are making a living developing APIs, and web enabled applications, whether it is a web or mobile, is extremely valuable to me when I am working to better understand the realities of the API space.
Thanks for your time today Dave. I have calls scheduled with other web and mobile development shops, as well as some IT and analytics firms, as I lead up to the API conversations we will be having at API Strategy & Practice in Chicago. The event is titled “APIs Go Mainstream”, so I think that conversations with small and medium sized development shops about how APIs are impacting their day to day worlds are super relevant, and something the larger API industry should tune into.