Building Everything You Need For A Global Nervous System Using The Twitter API

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.

Just two months after launching there new messaging startup in 2006, Twitter introduced the Twitter API to the world. Twitter's API release was in response to the growing usage of Twitter by those scraping the site or creating rogue APIs, so Twitter exposed the Twitter API, returning machine readable JSON and XML that developers could put to use, building things beyond what Twitter could build.

In just four short years Twitter’s API had become the center of countless desktop clients, mobile applications, web apps, and businesses -- even by Twitter itself, in its own mobile apps, and for its public website. The majority of what you know as Twitter today, came the API ecosystem. If Twitter is the nervous system of the world, the Twitter API is the nervous system of Twitter.

In my opinion, Twitter is one of the most influential APIs operating today, showing what is possible when a dead simple platform does one thing well, then opens up access via an API and lets an open API ecosystem of almost a million 3rd party developers, build out the rest of the platform--establishing an external R&D environment for the fast growing communication platform.

In addition to importance, Twitter is also one of the most complex APIs platforms in operation today showing us the difficulty in running large developer ecosystems, where you have a million developers building whatever they want, around your valuable companies assets. Sometimes this is a blessing, and sometimes this is a curse, and Twitter does pretty well at striking a balance between the two — acknowledging that APIs are more than just tech, they are also about business, and have a huge social and political aspect as well.

Not everyone loves Twitter, but you can’t argue that it has made a huge impact on how we conduct global business, and even how the government and our larger society operates. When you look at the success Twitter has achieved, I can’t help but see API driven success, allowing a simple startup to spread around the globe, using APIs to connect people, places, and conversations—becoming the nervous system for the coming API economy, which will always have that human, social layer that Twitter reflects so well.