I have made a lot of mistakes, and made plenty of totally incorrect assumptions about the API space in my last five years trying to help seize this narrow window of opportunity I feel we have, when it comes to defining our digital self--using APIs. As business leaders, IT, and developer practitioners, APIs provide us a big opportunity to understand our digital assets, better define them, and open up access to them.
This vision of what we can do when it comes to APIs is a pretty powerful one to consider, but is also something that quickly morphs, distorts, and becomes something entirely different when humans are involved--sometimes with positive outcomes, but increasingly they are negative. I'm feeling like I severely overestimated people's willingness to truly want to deliver solutions using APIs. Whether it was the API consumer, provider, or the service provider delivering their warez to the space -- the majority of folks seem most interested in their own selfish need.
While I often work to paint an optimistic view of all actors involved in the production that is the API space, here is how things are breaking out in my mind:
- API Providers - The average company, and business really does not have any interest in properly getting to know, and do the hard work necessary to define its digital self, and is perfectly happy just buying into the next wave of techno-solutionism, never really ever actually make any true change.
- API Consumers - Really have no interest in getting to know the API provider, are looking to get something for free, and will to sign up for multiple accounts, and other behavior that really is about extracting as much value as they can, and give nothing in return.
- API Service Providers - Could care less of the quality of API implementations, as long as API providers are using their solutions, ideally with a 2-3 contract, so we can meet our numbers--we have the techno-solutions that you need to not make any change.
- Investors - The longer I spend in the space, the more the strings of the investors become evident. These strings are almost always at odds with anything that truly make API work, like trust in a provider, transparent business models, and a sensible road map.
Y'all deserve each other in my opinion. The problem is you are all gumming up any forward motion we were actually enjoying. I'm hearing business folk talk about APIs like they are the next dashboard and analytics, a sort of catch-all solution to the problem of the day. I'm watching providers, service providers, and investors chase the money, and not actually investing in what is needed to actually do APIs right.
In short, there is a lot of money to be made, and to be spent when it comes to APIs -- that will do absolutely nothing to provide your company with real world solutions. You have to make sure an invest in the right people within your organization. People who will own the API vision, and help build internal capacity to help your organization understand its digital self, and deliver API driven solutions correctly. You do need services, and tooling to make this happen, but the core of it will be your people doing the hard work to define your core business value, while mapping out the digital version of your organizational, the bits and bytes that make this happen, and the other human stakeholders that are involved.
I am just venting, as I continue see waves of companies walking around with their heads cut off talking API, and spending money on API, and service providers lining up to sell meaningless API solutions to them. I am also seeing investors guiding both API provider, and API service provider in ways that have nothing to do with what is needed to deliver a solution that will make a real impact -- they are just looking to meet the numbers they've set.
As usual, this kind of shit doesn't stop me. I'll keep doing API for myself, and for the small handful of people who want to actually do a better job of defining their digital self, and own the creation, storage, orchestration, publishing, and syndication of that self. While y'all are all over there finding the best API driven way to lock up people's digital self, and extract as much value as you can for you and your partners, I'll be over answer questions for people who want to take control over their own individual professional, and business digital presence.