Treating Your APIs Like They Are Infrastructure

We all (well most of us) strive to deliver as stable of an API presence as we possibly can. It is something that is easier said than done. It is something that takes caring, as well as the right resources, experience, team, management, and budget to do APIs just right. It is something the API idols our there make look easy, when they really have invested a lot of time and energy into developing a agile, yet scalable approach to ensuring APIs stay up and running. Something that you might able to achieve with a single API, but can easily be lost between each API version, as we steer the ship forward.

I spend a lot of time at the developer portals of these leading API providers looking for interesting insight into how they are operating, and I though Stripe’s vision around versioning their API is worth highlighting. Specifically their quote about treating your API like they are real life physical infrastructure.

“Like a connected power grid or water supply, after hooking it up, an API should run without interruption for as long as possible.Our mission at Stripe is to provide the economic infrastructure for the internet. Just like a power company shouldn’t change its voltage every two years, we believe that our users should be able to trust that a web API will be as stable as possible.”

This is possible. This is how I view Amazon S3, and Pinboard. These are two APIs I depend on to make my business work. Storage and bookmarking are two essential resources in my world, and both these APIs have consistently delivered stable API infrastructure, that I know I can depend on. I think it is also interesting to note that one is a tech giant, while the other is a viable small business (not startup). Demonstrating for me that there isn’t a single path to being a reliable, stable, API provider, despite what some folks might believe.

I am spending a lot of time lately thinking of API infrastructure along the lines of our energy grid, and transit system. The analogies are not perfect, but I do feel like as time moves on, some of our API infrastructure will continue to become commoditized, deemed essential, and something we depend on just as much as power, gas, and other utilities. These are the APIs that will be sticking around, the ones that can prove their usefulness, and deliver reliable integrations that do not change with each funding season, or technology trend. I’m looking forward to getting beyond the wild west days of APIs, and moving into the stage where APIs are treated like they are infrastructure, not just some toy, or latest fad, and we can truly depend on them and build our businesses around.