The Expanding API Economy From The 100K Foot View

This is one of several stories I am evolving as part of series I'm calling API fairy tales. With these tales I want to educate business leaders, technologists, and government about the importance of Application Programming Interfaces (API), and how they are being applied in almost every aspect of business occurring online today--providing simple examples that mainstream users can learn from, as well as retell in their circles.

The Internet is slowly changing almost every aspect of our society, and a major part of this evolution is rooted in how we develop software, something that has been slowly building over the last 15 years, in the form of what is known an Application Programming Interfaces, or simply called APIs. This new breed of web APIs are providing access to data, content, and the other digital assets that are essential in building websites, mobile applications, and increasingly even physical devices.

This modern web API movement is not some new software from a company like IBM, Microsoft, or Google, it is simply the next step in the World Wide Web, where you don’t just surf the web, consuming HTML documents. In the API economy you navigate the Internet, creating, consuming, and interacting with not just HTML files, but any type of content, data, or digital resource that can be accessed via the web, desktop, and mobile applications that we increasingly depend on in our personal, and professional lives.

APIs are being used by almost every type of company, across almost every industry, to deliver the web and mobile applications business and consumer users are demanding. Companies ranging from Amazon to AT&T are putting APIs to work across business operations, and are something you increasingly see in governments as well, with APIs available for the city of San Francisco, New York, the White House, and across government of all shapes and sizes.

If you buy a product online, stream the latest movie, pay health insurance, send money online, or pay your taxes--it is likely your transaction used one or many APIs to make it happen, exposing the unit of currency for the API economy. This new API driven economy provides a digital transaction format that can be used in any business, any industry, anywhere in the world, via any Internet connected device.

APIs are not just the latest high tech product, they are the next evolution of the Internet. In 1995 companies were trying to decide whether or not they needed a website, and by 2000, having a website became critical for almost all aspects of business. In 2010 companies were trying to decide whether or not they needed an API, and in 2015, having an API is becoming critical to doing business in the rapidly expanding API economy.