How Do You Make Something, Something, The API Edition

After reflecting on API management and the Apigee IPO, I’m thinking deeper on how the API space has come to be a “thing". To kick off this story, you have to start with the API itself, something very abstract, hard to see, let alone convey to the average person. A single API is difficult to quantify, let alone an entire sector, or the companies rising up to service this perceived sector—think of the argument from early API management service providers like Mashery, 3Scale, and Apigee had to make to their VCs.

Don’t get me wrong, the API space has always been a “thing” to me, but along the road from 2010-2015, there has been plenty times, where I question the way things are. I have to give it to Mashery, they saw it early on, then 3Scale and Apigee joined in, and in 2015 we have a real industry, with 35 API management service providers, in addition to the expanding number of service providers catering to API design, deployment, management, discovery, integration, and other evolving layers of the API lifecycle.

In 2015, I feel like the API sector is a real thing. Not because 3Scale is still growing, Mashery was acquired by Intel, Apigee is IPOing, or that there is over 35 API management service providers, including a number of open source solutions. The API sector is a real thing because there are many other companies, in many supporting area who have emerged, and the overall awareness around the potential of API, by business leaders has grown significantly. How did this happen? It happened because people were telling the story of APIs, whether it was marketing for their products services, or stories on ProgrammableWeb and API Evangelist—working in concert to create an industry (something).

Within the same thought, I try to grasp how it was that I created API Evangelist. There sure as hell wasn’t any strategy to do it. Early on I had a vision in my mind, but five years later, that vision is radically different. I did what I had to do, when the time came, and told the stories that mattered (at least I tried). I am not trying to connect API Evangelist to the overall existence of the API management space, I’m trying to work through the details how you define something to a wide audience, in this very abstract world of APIs. I think this applies at the highest levels of industry like API management, to the lowest levels, at the microservice level (soon to be nanoservice, trust me it will be something ;-)—it isn’t something, until it is something, and people believe.

I know. All of this sounds like bullshit. If you think about it though, it begins to make sense (hopefully). Web APIs weren’t a thing until John Musser aggregated them together into a directory in 2005. API management wasn’t a thing until Mashery, 3Scale, and APigee made it into something. API evangelism wasn’t a thing until API providers like Twilio and Sendgrid started sending out armies of evangelists to hackathons. API design wasn’t a thing until Tony Tam gave us Swagger to help us visualize our APIs, and Jakub Nesetril of Apiary allowed us to design, mock, and collaborate around an API Blueprint. None of these things were things, until people stepped up and worked really hard to convince others, that they were a thing.

I’m working hard to understand this in action across the API space. The Apigee IPO, Swagger changing hands, and other shifts in the landscape are making me think a little deeper about how we got where we are at. How did we all build momentum in API management, design, or now apply to world of API discovery? How do you make government APIs a thing? How do we ensure hypermedia becomes / is a thing? I mean, not just one possible design constraint, but well understood by all developers, and when it makes most sense to put to use. How has Swagger evolved? What is next for Swagger? These are all things that make me curious for what the future holds, and how I can help get us there safely, with as few scratches as possible.