My friend, Karen Donoghue, recently published an interesting discussion on her experince with Open APIs (a.k.a. Public APIs) and how they should consider UX during development. This got me thinking about how this could also affect product development.
The effective concept of an Open API is intriguing. After all, many websites are publicly available resources. Why not (some) of the actual data services underneath?
APIs underpin the products we use everyday. Many of them are hidden from plain sight unless you're a software developer or work in technology. Yet these interfaces run our world.
The further software has evolved, the easier it has become to pick up the basic building blocks, put them together, and then create new functionality. Layers of abstraction have made it trivial in many cases to accomplish what would have taken days or weeks into mere minutes
This blog is a case in point. Spin up a new VM with Docker pre-built. Pull down a ghost docker container, run it, setup with an excellent open source them courtesy of Kathy Qian, and I was done. Adding Cloudflare was only a 2 minute exercise.
CapitalOne opened up their APIs some time ago. Not everyone seemed to consider it a truly open API at the time. They seem to have evolved though, as per the DevExchange and now the list has grown up a bit to the present day with multiple available API services.
The key takeaway for me was the opportunity these APIs create for new products. Whereas traditionally, a business model for an app would have relied on advertising, now product developers can skip the ads and directly bake in services that could generate revenue. Give me a more frictionless way to sign up for a bank account or an easier way to view my rewards in your platform. I'm all in (though not with Capital One at this time).
The banking sector has relied on advertising and promotion, trying to draw new consumers in. They can flip that model on it's head by offering APIs for direct consumption. Banks are not generally known for good UX, so why not offload that to the nimble developers who are? Corporations that make it easy to use and consume their data for extra value are likely to end up ahead in the digital world.
I'm interested to see how this trend continues. Open APIs will get more and more leverage as the frameworks around them get better and easier to use. I'd love to see new products that take the information, innovate with it, and deliver a great experience.