Not All Companies Are Interested In The Interoperability That APIs Bring

I’ve learned a lot in eight years of operating API Evangelist. One of the most important things I’ve learned to do is separate my personal belief and interest in technology from the realities of the business world. I’ve learned that not all businesses are ready for the change that doing APIs bring, and that many businesses really aren’t interested in the interoperability, portability, and observability that APIs bring to the table. Despite what I may believe, APIs in the real world often have a very different outcome.

I see the potential of having a public API developer portal where you publish all the digital resources your company offers. Providing self-service registration to access these digital resources at a fair, transparent, and pay for what you use pricing model. I get what this can do for companies when it comes to attracting developer talent to help deliver the applications that are needed for any platform to thrive. I’ve seen the benefits to the end-users of these applications when it comes to giving them control over their data, the ability to leverage 3rd party applications, while also better understanding, managing, and ultimately owning the digital resources they generate each day. I also regularly see how this all can be a serious threat to how some businesses operate, and work to reveal the illnesses that exist within many businesses, and the shady things the occur behind the firewall each day.

I regularly see businesses pay lip service to the concept of APIs, but in reality, are more about locking things up, and slowing things down to their benefit, instead of opening up access, and streamlining anything. I’m not saying that businesses do this by default, and are always being led from the top down to behave this way, I am saying it gets baked into the fabric of how teams, groups, and individuals cells in the overall organizational organism. These cells learn to resist, fight back, appear like they are on board with this latest wave of how we deliver technology, but in reality, they are not interested in the interoperability that APIs bring to the table. There is just too much power, control, and revenue to be generated by locking things up, slowing things down, and making things hard to get.

After eight years of doing this, plus another 22 years of working in the industry, I’m always skeptical of people’s motivation motivation behind doing APIs. Why do you think this resources is important enough to make accessible? Who will get access to this resources? What is the price of this resource? Is pricing observable across all tiers of access? Can we talk about your SLA? Can we talk about your road map? Why are you doing APIs? Who do they benefit? There are so many questions to be asked when getting at the soul of each company’s API efforts. Before you can truly understand if a company is truly interested in the interoperability that APIs bring to the table. Before you can begin to understand what their API journey will involve. Before you understand whether or not you want to do business with a company using their API, and make it something you bake into your own operations and applications.

I write about this only to remind myself that some companies will have other plans. I write about this to remind myself to ask the hard questions of all the organizations I’m engaging with, all along the way. I tend to default to a belief that most people are straight up, and share their real intentions, yet I need a regular reminder that this really isn’t true. Most successful businesses are doing aggressive, shady, and manipulative things to get ahead. The concept of creating the best product, and running a smart business, and you’ll win, is a myth. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, or can’t happen, I am saying it isn’t the normal mode of the business world–despite popular belief. This is all a reminder that just because a business has APIs, doesn’t mean their belief system around doing APIs reflects my vision, or the popular API community vision around what doing APIs is all about.