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It All Starts with APIs
By Tanya Vlahovic, Lead Public API Architect, eBay
APIs connect businesses
Any company could take advantage of APIs nowadays. The APIs encapsulate business and enable it to expand into new contexts and experiences. So, forward-looking organizations speak API to inspire innovation and to amplify reach. They treat APIs as first-class products that are developed by developers for developers. Such products empower partners around the globe to be inventive and to create successful experiences for their users. We live in a connected digital age that relies on accessing data and leveraging various capabilities. So, the APIs are the building blocks of the digital economy and an essential part of growing a successful business rather than a “nice-to-have” feature.
APIs evolve and grow with the business and open the door to new opportunities. The entire API portfolio is what brings value to organizations. Individual APIs are not sufficient for developers to innovate. The APIs are powerful when used together, so the portfolio dimension is what matters.
Designing a set of interfaces that will meet business objectives, attract developers, and be long-lived is difficult. The vision is to deliver a world-class developer experience by building a secure, simple, consistent, extensible, and well-documented API portfolio. This requires API stakeholders to monitor revenue metrics constantly and to keep optimizing the value of the API program. Considering feedback from the engaged developer community to refine business strategies and roadmaps further is a cornerstone of successful developer experience. Customer satisfaction is one of the most important metrics to measure the success of the API program.
The vision of any API program is a large and powerful ecosystem of developer applications that add value and benefits to organizations. It is essential to be in the game and follow the right strategy to become a champion
Building an API ecosystem is hard, but if done well, it expands in the right direction and allows embracing change and acting as well as reacting fast.
In the commerce world, for example, disruptive forces are powerful these days. Organizations combine emerging technologies to create truly immersive experiences. Augmented and virtual reality and artificial intelligence, with speech and image recognition, and all sort of self-learning systems, are everywhere. These innovations have the power to expand the limits of our perception, transforming the way we interact with the digital world. Further, this requires the API landscape transformation.
The APIs express the value of a business, so they should be managed as products and governed. The API stakeholders typically understand the importance of having a consistent API portfolio but agreeing on principles is hard. The essential elements of a successful API program are standards and governance. Specifications define what is constant across the APIs while the objective, manageable, and transparent governance process ensures the APIs fit the technical vision by enforcing standards and best practices.
The easiest way to do APIs is to design intuitive and straightforward contracts. APIs are interfaces for human developers, so the API design should be developer-centric and focused on the consumption with an outside-in perspective. By providing consistent, predictable, and understandable names, the APIs tell their story and make documentation redundant to a great extent. First and foremost, the API design should be forward-looking to allow extending capabilities in the future. The challenge lies in finding a balance between agile product development methodology and the time needed for a detailed design.
Further, it is crucial to engage with developers to understand their needs and to provide them with the right resources. Human- and machine-readable API contracts published in standardized formats simplify and streamline interacting with the APIs. SDKs, mainly when open-sourced to provide full transparency to developers into what is happening in their integration, are convenient tools.
Finally, APIs are the front door to orgnaizations’ capabilities and platform, so the continuous API security strategy is essential to ensure the APIs are reliable digital assets. This includes the authorization mechanism to provide business with fine-grained control over access to data and capabilities. The API security being treated as an enabler rather than a gate leads to preventing good actors in the API ecosystem to be impacted by bad actors’ behavior.
APIs are everywhere
APIs are everywhere. They play an integral role in the digital world by enabling new integration models that empower developers to unlock opportunities and propel the business into the future. The vision of any API program is a large and powerful ecosystem of developer applications that add value and benefits to organizations. It is essential to be in the game and follow the right strategy to become a champion.