Mastodon Opening the Age of Federated APIs

I have been immersed in the Mastodon universe since Thanksgiving. I have been growing my network for both my personal and professional domains, and have been playing with the Mastodon API daily. I have been slowly automating much of my curation, posting, filtering, and other information activities I historically conduct via Twitter, but now I am automating using the Mastodon API. To help me automate using the Mastodon API, I am using a single OpenAPI definition, from which I generate a single reference collection, and use to spawn a mix of capability collections. These collections do one thing for me, helping me accomplish common tasks like posting a message, pulling statuses, and searching for users. I then manually run these collections, schedule using monitors, and bake into CI/CD pipelines for a variety of projects. I have one set of collections I use, and then when I switch between the domain and the domain, I simply use environments to make the switch—demonstrating the beauty and usefulness of federated APIs (and Postman).

While I still have a lot more work ahead of me when it comes to automating and orchestrating across my two domains, I wanted to test this at scale, and expand to other top Mastodon instance domains. What do I do, well I search for “Mastodon Instance API” of course!! I immediately come across the Mastodon Instance API, a well done API by TheKinrar. I got to work making a collection for the API to help me automate searching for instances, which I’ll use to generate Postman environments for all the instances I am looking to work with. One API, many instances. One collection, many environments. This allows me to standardize how I automate across the Mastodon universe, and has me thinking more deeply about federated APIs in general. I have long been an advocated for standardized open source APIs for all of the digital resources we depend upon, but I am feeling like the Mastodon shift from Twitter provides us with one possible opportunity to help drive federated API publicity and awareness.

Centralized platform APIs have their benefits, but we also really suffer from a deficiency when it comes to consistent open source API definitions and implementations for all of the most common digital resources we use to build our businesses. Things like images, messages, contacts, videos, and others should not be reinvented every time we deploy an instance of an API. Not every messaging API we use across the enterprise should be a special snowflake. There is no competitive advantage to reinventing the wheel here, there is a lot of money to be saved by implementing open source solutions, and we are giving away a lot of the value we generate to platforms when we farm out all of our digital resources to 3rd party providers. Ideally our operations should be a mix of proprietary, open source, and 3rd party platform solutions, helping us focus on our core business value and not reinvent the wheel when it comes our operational infrastructure. You should be able to launch a new instance of an API for every object in the registry in any cloud within minutes, eliminating the need for teams to be doing redundant and necessary work, allowing them to focus on what actually matters.

Now, I fully get that if you aren’t in the Mastodon universe you do not see what is going on. You don’t see the potential. I will have to convince people of this over time. APIs are abstract and hard for people to see, and federated open source APIs are even harder for people to see. The Mastodon universe is still coming into to focus for those of us who are involved, and it will take time for me to even seen the scope of what is happening. However, I can’t help but get a little excited t the potential here. I truly see folks replacing the Twitterers with the Fediverse when it comes to their social channel. It provides a rich opportunity to demonstrate the power of protocols and how federated APIs can help us do more with less. I’ve learned my lesson from previous projects and I won’t get too evangelist on people when it comes to the importance of this moment, but I will be spend any extra time I can telling stories about why Mastodon is opening up an age of federated APIs. I am pretty good at seeing what matters in the world of technology, and I am pretty confident that federated open source APIs like Mastodon are going to play a significant role in the next decade of API evolution, moving beyond just social, and helping us automate and scale other essential areas we are collaborating and engaging online.