APIs and the Future of Web Apps

Today’s TechCrunch piece entitled 3 Pillars Of The New Business World: APIs, Identity, and Data hits on several topics I’m passionate about. With the proliferation of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) for line-of-business applications, there’s a huge opportunity to use APIs, as well as the exchanging of data, to the make businesses more efficient, and decision making more effective.

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are a way for computers to talk to other computers in an automated fashion. As an example, all iPhone apps that interface with servers to get data or call functions are interfacing with APIs that are accessible over the web (e.g. checking your flight on the Delta mobile app). Just like mobile apps access web-based APIs, web-based applications access the APIs of the other web-based applications, providing more value to the customer. When a marketing automation system interfaces with a CRM, the marketing automation platform can automatically pull down CRM pipeline opportunity information and correlate it back to lead gen campaigns, providing a more complete picture of the return on investment for a dollar spent by marketing — APIs make that possible.

An application talking to other applications is nothing new. Only now, with so many more applications being delivered over the web, the friction and difficulty of one app talking to another is significantly diminished as challenges with custom code and firewalls are no longer present. The future of web apps is more APIs and more data exchange, significantly enhancing the value of business software.

What else? What are your thoughts on APIs and the future of web apps?

3 thoughts on “APIs and the Future of Web Apps

  1. Hi David,

    I could not agree more about APIs.

    As an aside, almost my entire career has been in the business of APIs, in one form or another. Of course they came in other forms before the web, and today’s web APIs are becoming must-haves for even non-tech companies, but the driving factors are the same: offer a platform instead of a product. As O’Reilly say, “A Platform Beats an Application Every Time”[1].

    BTW, have you seen [2]? It’s written by @kinlane and it’s become my most important read regarding the business of APIs. And for technologists interested in APIs a must-subscribe is the API-Craft mailing list[3]. Hope this helps.

    [1] http://oreilly.com/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html?page=2
    [2] http://apievangelist.com/blog/
    [3] http://groups.google.com/group/api-craft

  2. I own a consumer data business (we have the largest consumer database in the country) and marketing agency in South Africa, and we are constantly setting up unique API’s to connect with our larger clients (large banks and insurance companies mostly)
    The problem we find is 2fold: 1) having the right developers and staff to understand the requirements, and setup and manage the interface. 2) ensuring that the security of our database is not compromised when interacting with the clients systems.

    My experiences make me realize that the future of API’s or any sort of web interface mostly relies on the vision and skills of the designers…. A badly thought out and coded piece of software can make even the most profitable of opportunities fail. The human element is always the biggest challenge for us

  3. The challenge with APIs is that it puts your business at the mercy of another business. As long as your goals are aligned that’s fine. Take for example the famous French startup (whose name escapes me) that had huge traction. Until Linkedin cut the cord on their use of its API – and that was that. How do you recognize this potential product risk?

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