Business and APIs: Both Above and Below the Surface
On Tuesday, April 2 I spoke on a panel about the API economy at the Data 2.0 Summit. I was fortunate enough to be joined by customers and friends from some of the best data companies around: Neustar, Twilio, GNIP, SnapLogic and moderated by StrikeIron’s CTO Bob Brauer. The conversation took the form of a discussion about how everyone from the national newspapers to paper-making companies are using APIs to advance their businesses. The panel also discussed enterprise vs. public APIs, the dichotomy between APIs that are visible above the surface to the developer community, and less obvious APIs below the surface.
Above the surface, APIs are everywhere. The volume of open APIs are most clear, our panel agreed, in the industries like media, where APIs are all about getting eyeballs to data and directing traffic back to a news outlet’s site. We manage the APIs for media publishing companies such as USA TODAY and The Guardian. In each of these leading media brands’ APIs case, some portion of their data is made available to other websites or apps in hopes that users will share the content (and links back to the respective news site). The net increase in traffic and ad revenue is driving this model as a rival to the paywall model.
You hear from our friends at ProgrammableWeb that there are 5,000 open APIs available to the developer community, and we love that. But this statistic just chronicles known public APIs. APIs made available by eBay, Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. are driving the notion that Web APIs mean only free and public data. The panel explained that enterprises have been doing this longer, and that 5,000 is really the tip of the iceberg.
Below the surface, enterprise APIs is where much of the activity is occurring and perhaps is maybe the bigger opportunity. Despite the number of APIs being used between enterprises and their partners, or even internally at major Valley players, enterprises aren’t touting the breadth of what they do. APIs are becoming a given in the enterprise world; these are businesses that have been working in the world of Web services for a long time. Not only do APIs have an enterprise past, according to the discussion, but enterprises and APIs have a strong future.
Even though open enterprises don't talk much about their APIs, they are doing some awesome things. Mashery has been seeing a big shift in the enterprise of companies unlocking business assets, both to partners and internally, and yes, even some are public APIs.
One panelist mentioned that old-line businesses like the Yellow Pages had opened up it’s listing to remain relevant and start to explore new business opportunities. I mentioned a 110 yr old paper manufacturer named Mohawk Paper that with just five IT folks, had one of the most inspiring cloud adoption and integration stories I had seen in a long time. Gartner has a fascinating case study on them and their CIO mentioned at Gartner’s AADI conference in December that even with all the integration and cloud adoption, he was most exciting about exposing his real time API! He was after new business opportunities.
Unlocking assets for employees are even paying dividends. Neustar’s Peter Kerwan reminded the audience that even though they sell data via their API, they have also reaped major rewards by running internal hackdays called Neudev Days to spur innovation and creativity. And here’s an example from another great media brand, ESPN, who chronicled their recent hackday.
Definitely an interesting panel and fun to be part of!
Chris Lippi is Vice-President of Product and Services at Mashery