Sasha Kamenetska | Contributor
January 24, 2013

Let your API Strategy help with your data landfill


A few weeks ago, I wrote about an API strategy specific to enterprise needs.  The strategy discussed in that post is one of dividing data into tiers.  Large companies have virtual landfills full of data, but not all company data is the same.  Some is public, some is for customers only and some is for internal use only.  The API strategy should reflect that.  It should have different tiers that are meant for different users.

The public or open tier can be the trickiest.  Many companies (and especially their legal departments) do not want to give anything away for free.  Of course – there is a danger of giving away too much.

The truth is that most companies already give information up without compensation.  Think about a company’s website.  It provides information, sometimes about services, sometimes about current events (think about sports scores, news headlines, etc.), sometimes something else. 

Without an API, that data is sitting on the website (or other public forum) waiting to be scraped (meaning anyone can come along and manually or automatically pull content), with no regulation, monitoring or agreement on how it should be used.  With an API, an enterprise can control how its public data is used.

An API allows a company to enter an agreement on the usage of the data/content with the users (aka developers) via a terms of service.  In essence, an API allows a company to better control of the content it wants to distribute.  And API management offers tools to control/allow access and monitor usage.

It can put terms of service in place that ensure that developers only use its data in ways that the enterprise deems acceptable.  It can monitor usage and limit access to a certain frequency.  It can have much more insight on how its data is being used.

Large companies like ESPN, Dun & Bradstreet and The New York Times have opened at least some portion of their data for public use.  They have realized that it is better to know what you are giving away, and control it, than to not know.  And they understood that putting this data out there in an easily consumable format benefits them in the long run.  More users/consumers/customers will be able to interact with and properly attribute their brand.  More potential partners will be found.  More revenue models will be developed.  These are all great potential benefits of opening up and managing some already public data.