What Has Been The Biggest Change In The Industry Since I Started API Evangelist

I am spending two days this week with the Capital One DevExchange team outside of Washington DC, and they’ve provided me with a list of questions for one of our sessions, which they will be recording for internal use. To prepare, I wanted to work through my thoughts, and make sure each of these answers were on the tip of my tongue–here is one of those questions, along with my thoughts.

The biggest change in the industry since I started doing API Evangelist in 2010 is who is doing APIs. In 2010 it was 95% startups doing APIs, with a handful of enterprise, and small businesses doing them. I’d say over the last couple years the biggest change is that this had spread beyond the startup community and is something we see across companies, organizations, institutions, and government agencies of all shapes and sizes. Granted, there are a variety when it comes to the level they are doing them, and the quality, but APIs are something that has been moving mainstream over the last seven years, and becoming more commonplace in many different industries.

In 2010 it was all about Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, and many of the API pioneers. This has been rapidly shifting to each wave of startups like Twilio, Stripe, Slack, and others. However, now in 2017 I am seeing insurance companies, airlines, car companies, universities, cities, and federal agencies with API programs. I mean, c’mon, Capital One has an API program (wink, wink). While I still hold influence with each wave of API service providers looking to sell to the space, and many of the API startup providers, my main audience is folks on the frontline of the enterprise, and government agencies at all levels. I also have a growing number of people at higher educational institutions tuning into what I’m writing as they look to evolve their approach to technology. APIs were mainly a startup thing in 2010, and in 2017 it is about getting business done in a digital age thing.

The technology of APIs is still expanding and we are seeing things push beyond just REST, and web APIs, but by far the biggest change has been more about the business of doing APIs, and more importantly sometimes, the politics of doing APIs. These are areas of the industry that are rapidly expanding and evolving as new people onboard with the concept of an API, and the opportunity for doing APIs. As we add new companies, organizations, institutions, agencies, and industries to API conversation, the technology of APIs hasn’t shifted to much, but the business and political landscape is flexing, shifting, and evolving at a pretty rapid pace, and it is something that isn’t always a good thing. Along with it comes privacy, security, financial, and other challenges that will only get worse if there isn’t more discussion and collective investment.

The shift I’ve seen between 2010 and 2017, feels a lot like the change I witnessed from 1995 to 2002 with the web, but this time it’s more than just about websites, it is also about mobile applications, devices, conversational interfaces, automation, and much more. Honestly, it is simply just the next evolution of the web, where there is significantly more channels for operating on than just a browser, and there is a growing amount of digital assets being distributed via the web beyond just text, and images. Video has picked up speed, voice and audio are finally maturing, and algorithms, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are seeing a significant uptick. While all of these areas will have their impact, the biggest changes will come from leading industries like healthcare, education, banking, transportation, and others going beyond just dipping their toes in the API space, but baking it into everything they do.