Around 2010, the world of APIs began picking up speed with the introduction of the iPhone, and then Android mobile platforms. Web APIs had been used for delivering data and content to websites for almost a decade at that point, but their potential for delivering resources to mobile phones is what pushed APIs into the spotlight. The API management providers pushed the notion of being multi-channel, and being able to deliver to web and mobile clients, using a common stack of APIs. Seven years later, web and mobile are still the dominant clients for API resources, but we are seeing a next generation of clients begin to get more traction, which includes voice, bot, and other conversational interfaces.
If you deliver data and content to your customers via your website and mobile applications, the chance that you will also be delivering it to conversational interfaces, and the bots and assistants emerging via Alexa and Google Home, as well as on Slack, Facebook, Twitter, and other messaging platforms, is increasing. I’m not selling that everything will be done with virtual assistants, and voice commands in the near future, but as a client we will continue to see mainstream user adoption, and voice be used in automobiles, and other Internet connected devices emerging in our world. I am not a big fan of talking to devices, but I know many people who are.
I don’t think Siri, Alexa, and Google Home will live up to the hype, but there is enough resources being invested into these platforms, and the devices that they are enabling, that some of it will stick. In the cracks, interesting things will happen, and some conversational interfaces will evolve and become useful. In other cases, as a consumer, you won’t be able to avoid the conversational interfaces, and be required to engage with bots, and use voice enabled devices. This will push the need to have conversationally literate APIs that can deliver data to people in bite-size chunks. Sensors, cameras, drones, and other Internet-connected devices will increasingly be using APIs to do what they do, but voice, and other types of conversational interfaces will continue to evolve to become a common API client.
I am hoping at this point we begin to stop counting the different channels we deliver API data and content to. Despite many of the Alexa skills, and Slack bots I encounter being pretty yawn-worthy, I’m still keeping an eye on how APIs are being used by these platforms. Even if I don’t agree with all the uses of APIs, I still find the technical, business, and politics beyond them evolving worth tuning into. I tend to not emphasize to my clients that they work on voice or bot applications if they aren’t too far along their API journey, but I do make sure they understand one of the reasons they are doing APIs is to support a wide and evolving range of clients, and that at some point they’ll have to begin studying how voice, bots, and other conversational approaches will be a client they have to consider a little more in their overall strategy.