And so it begins…
When I wrote part one of this post, it set off a heated controversy. A lot of healthy debate, some agreeing and some opposing me. But, as I reflect on the whole episode, some of them seem to have missed a major point I was making.
If you read my article in full, you will know that I made one speculation and stated a few obvious facts.
1.I speculated about the question, “Are Public APIs going away?”, which as the title itself suggests, is a question, not an affirmative statement, and I asked it while citing some examples, and suggesting things might change along the way.
The following are the facts that I see happening in the industry:
1.Whether you start with a public API or private API program, your needs are going to change sooner or later. You might have to expand, contract, control or try to maximize the revenues from that channel. As with any program, monetization will be a key driving factor.
2.If you have a public or open API program, you might have to tighten the control some time, or, in extreme cases, the entire program might just disappear to concentrate on private/ protected API programs. In that process, you need to be careful so you don’t restrict too much and thereby kill innovation.
3.You need a digital platform that will help you adapt to your changing needs. Especially if you have multiple programs/platforms, it is not going to be easy to switch things around.
4.Finally, until I see enough proof to change my mind, I will continue to believe that if you maintain two different sets of programs/platforms it seems to me that the public API program takes a hit first when such changes occur.
Having said that, the other side can be true as well. If you are building a completely private API platform, in your dark secret data center, with very restrictive access given only to your developers, then when your needs change, you could be in trouble too. The change can happen due to changing needs for better branding, or could be for innovation, or could be for public integration, or if you are a digital native company, it could be for revenue as well. I do occasionally see companies moving from a restrictive platform to a more open platform to support their changing needs. This especially happens in heavily regulated industries such as banking, energy, healthcare, insurance, etc.
I agree there is a major difference between enterprise space and the so-called ‘digital native’ space, where companies rely on public APIs more heavily. Regardless, sooner or later I expect them to tighten the rules, control it more, and ultimately try to figure out a way to monetize it.
Maybe the folks at Twitter read my post. I got an email from Twitter suggesting this exact concept. That they are tightening the controls, and that they are going to monetize things now. It is only a matter of time before a lot of other companies follow suit from their initial user experience built for innovation, or branding, experimentation phase to a monetization reality phase. In fact, I am talking to at least half a dozen companies who are in that stage and want to know how they can do this right.
But what surprised me about Twitter is that though they are tightening the control and try to squeeze every penny out, they are trying to maintain the user experience in this process. For example, they could have started with flooding the tweet base with advertisements and promotions from companies and thereby turning the user experience somewhat nasty. But they are getting innovative: they will give you an option to decide to turn their platform into a commerce platform. Ultimately, not only will they be able to offer a unique digital shopping experience, but they can also provide a monetization platform that those companies can use as a service as well. Now that is innovation.
Here is the email excerpt from Twitter (which I am sure you might have received as well if you are a Twitter user).
The fact is, as API programs continue to mature their needs will change. Monetization will be the main driving factor, but I agree there will be other factors too. If you disagree with that, it is fine, let us agree to disagree and move on.
Simply put, if you are embarking on the mission of building a futuristic platform, you need to take account of your future needs, and the fact that your business model will be changing sooner than later.
Let the debate rage on!
Reach out to me on Twitter @AndyThurai to continue this conversation.