A colleague of mine recently sent me a great article on Forbes called, “Why Siri Needs an API.” While it was an interesting article, it had one great line, which I loved.
“During the last five years, APIs have begun to be recognized as one of a company’s most enduring assets.”
API – Application Programming Interface – is the well-defined methods and interfaces that enable other developers and engineers, i.e. those not working for you, to utilize your services. You create leverage. You may be a small company with 2 engineers, a mid-size with 100, or a large one with thousands. Nonetheless, you are still limited. Outside, in the real world, there are millions of engineers and developers, each working for themselves or their company, each of which has its own interests. They will find ways to use your service, ways you never thought of, nor would you ever think of, by yourself.
Many companies are afraid to open APIs. They want control, and are concerned that others out there may affect their brand by using their API. They are afraid to open their coat and expose themselves to the world.
The Forbes article is highlighting that which many of us who have lived in and out of the technology world for a long time have always instinctively known: leveraging the outside world, which is so much larger than you are, will help grow your business, and they will stay with you for a long long time. Numerous studies have shown that Microsoft stole the PC market from under Apple because they did a better job cultivating developers – they leveraged their API. There is little question that a key, if not the key, asset in the runaway success of the iPhone and iPad has been the App Store. The iTunes App Store is nothing more or less than the API model: let millions of outside developers build products (apps) that use your platform (iPhone) using the API.
It may feel strange to many, but an open API is an unquestionable win. Open Your Coat!