The Shifting API Landscape

I’ve been watching, and trying to move forward the API conversation across all business sectors for seven years now. I’m not a startup. I’m not an API service provider. I’m not steering an enterprise group. I’m not an investor. I’m a software architect and storyteller who saw the potential for leveraging web infrastructure to deliver data, content, media, and algorithms across the web, to our mobile phones, as well as the seemingly endless number of devices we are connecting to the Internet in our personal, professional, and industrial worlds. I’m not studying the landscape so I sell to it. I am studying the landscape so I can understand it. While most of my readers will not grasp that difference, it gives me a fundamentally different view of what is going on across the space.

In the last seven years I’ve had a focus on helping individuals at SMB, SME, enterprise, organizations, institutions, and government agencies understand what APIs are, and why they should be doing them. In 2017, I feel that mission becoming irrelevant based upon the shifting API landscape. As I work on my third API-first strategy for a top level federal agency in response to an RFI in recent months, prepare for an all week API workshop at Mutual of Omaha in Nebraska, and bookmark the job postings for API architect at almost every major bank in the US and UK, my cute little mission to help understand people understand what APIs are clearly needs to be retired. While there are plenty of people who still need to be educated what APIs are, and that they should be doing them, I’m going to leave it to the waves of other pundits, advocates, evangelists, and analysts to help onboard them. I’ve done my time.

There are many changes on the horizon for API Evangelist which I’ll cover in future posts, but one significant one for me will be to lose “the mission”. As much as I’d like to think people care, in this investment fueled startup world, bundled with an endlessly uncritically belief in technology, I’m not convinced people do. I feel like I was bullshitting myself, right along with other entrepreneurs that I was doing the “good work”, and trying to make a difference in the world (it is a white dude condition). People like to rally around the little campfire I’ve built, but after seven years I can count on two hands the people who actually follow through on this vision. So, you’ll see this delusion disappear from my storytelling, and along with it the belief that everyone should be doing APIs. I’ll still hold on to a belief that EVERYONE should understand what APIs are, as they are an essential aspect of digital literacy in this online world we’ve assembled for ourselves, but I’ll be losing the social good aspect of my API Evangelism in the future.

The API landscape is shifting to be more mainstream. While API providers haven’t made all the choices I would have liked to see in the space when it comes to transparency, observability, privacy, security, and communication, I feel like I’ve had some influence on the space–even if it was just some better storytelling than the marketing that is pumped out of startup and enterprise factories on a daily basis, and the mouthpieces that are the tech blogs. While I will still be talking to the serious startups who are building real tools, and are willing to pay for my consulting services, all the other waves of predatory, exit-building startups that emerge will probably not even know who I am. That is just fine. I’m going to be shifting away from startup-land, in an effort to minimize my frustrations, depression, and to help eliminate the rantiness of my storytelling on the blog. While it may be amusing for some, it is a symptom of a larger illness that plagues not just me, but the wider sector–it is something I’ll be distancing myself from.

I’m working to keep API Evangelist alive and relevant after all these years, as well as pay my bills. I want to keep it up and running. I want to keep it telling relevant stories on a regular basis. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. After 3,060 blog posts I can say that finding the mojo to do it each week, and cover things that are valuable to readers isn’t straightforward. I’m going to shift things to be more relevant to organizations of all sizes to do API right. It will still be a blend of my focus on the technology, business, and politics, but it will be more grownup and mature. Less ranty. Less accessible. More professional. More about helping those doing APIs do them better. I’m just not convinced my helping folks “do APIs” was ever any good for anyone. It was my delusion. Sharing my skills and expertise as a professional might have value to some, but the mission thing was more about my ego, than it was about anyone else. The API space is shifting. It is expanding and growing. It is definitely going mainstream. I’m continuing to study it. Understand it. Report on it. And I am looking forward to my work shifting and evolving with it in 2018. I very curious where it will all lead, and how things will look from my perch.