No Public APIs Are Not Going Away Just Cause A Few BigCos Fumble At It

by Kin Lane, API Evangelist Twitter LinkedIn Github Email

I saw another story about whether or not public APIs are going away, which is another story in a fairly long line of stories I’m seeing lately from enterprise outlets about whether or not the demise of Netflix, ESPN, and now Aetna means public APIs are a bad idea, unsustainable and now will be going away—proving enterprise API architects right that an SOA is the way to go.

If you are looking at the bigger API picture, the answer to this question is clearly no. Amazon, Salesforce, Twilio, and many other public APIs with straightforward business models are doing just fine. Just because a handful of companies who never quite had a business model, and never really gave their API efforts  the resources they needed to be successful, doesn't mean that public APIs are a bad idea.

Looking through my list of 2500+ APIs I track on, I can point to numerous other APIs that are about to shutter, which has nothing to do with the fact that they are public, and everything to do with not having the right business and political building blocks for their API. I’m sorry if you are just in the game to exploit developers and get them to build things for your company, you can’t be exploitative in this game and last, developers smell that shit a mile away--you have to give, just as much as receive.

To be successful when it comes to APIs, you can't just launch an API, spend 100K on a popular API management solution, hire one guy (you know it, you hired a guy), and expect miracles within a couple months. It just doesn't work that way. APIs take a lot more grassroots building of an evangelist team, investment in a lot of projects, telling of many meaningful stories, and going to many conferences, Meetups, and events before anyone will know you exist, let alone building anything on your APIs.

Public APIs being a failure is something the enterprise wants you to believe so they can sell you their SOA solutions disguised as API ones, Public APIs disappearing is more about the business and politics of APIs, and less about the technology and whether something is publicly available or not. If you don't have the company culture to invest in transparency, outreach, and providing meaningful resources that developers will need to be successful, you will fail in the public API game, so give up now.