In May 2014, Berlin was the host of API Days convention, and this time it was pretty much developer oriented. Naturally, Vicert has sent one of its team members to attend. Here are the impressions.
Are Web APIs that big of a deal?
Yes, yes they are.
Web APIs are gaining in importance as a way of providing software, but also as an integral part of the web site. Developing and owning Web APIs can be very profitable (Google Maps comes to mind) so it is no surprise that there are more and more startups with Web API as their product.
But probably the main point is, that the idea of Web 3.0 (the Programmable Internet) is wrapped around the Web APIs. Web APIs are enabling users to utilize the web site the way they want user wants, and number of Web APIs is steadily growing.
Naturally, there are many obstacles to creating an API, and community has already established some goals such as standardization and easy transfer / exchange of information about APIs, to help developers avoid many of the pitfalls.
There are some solutions (in development) for this such as Json LD, Hydra. These two aim to provide metadata about the service, as part of the response (thus allowing dynamic consumption of Restful web services). Their further development should be closely monitored.
Trends and facts
Another trend of importance is implementation of internal APIs, cases where APIs form a backbone of large information systems, analogous to SOA solutions.This allows for much easier integration of the system components, and allows companies to phase out the expensive SOA support software.
Interesting fact: Salesforce.com API was mentioned several times during the various presentations as very powerful and well-modeled Web API (well deserved, since it is one of the major web API pioneers). There were also some good examples related to automation of Salesforce.com API (e.g. Writing GUI data clients for dynamic data transfer and transformation from one Salesforce.com organization to another).
The whole meet up was strongly focused on managing the development of API you own, how to manage versions, bug fixes, licensing, etc… Something more about the standardization aspects and sharing APIs: http://apicommons.org/
Fun with OAuth
One of the presentations was related to problems with various OAuth implementations, and OAuth.io’s clever solution was demonstrated. Links to their presentation, and API itself are below:
Everybody is doing it
Lots of big companies are in the game as well, companies that worked well without Web APIs, yet they have decided to start providing their services via API as well. Lecturers (so-called Api Evangelists) from Twitter, Paypal and Dropbox were present, showing off their products, and sharing the experiences. Twitter’s presentation by Romain Huet was one of the more fun lectures, since he actually demonstrated the API rather physically … using a quad copter – RaspberryPi – Twitter API – performance.
Picture below was tweeted on his profile as a result.
Twitter Copter catching entertained crowd @ Berlin API Days
Government is on it too
An important factor is that the U.S. government began to pay attention to Web APIs, as a e-government tool, allowing US citizens to easily retrieve their information from government agencies. Development API for it is being developed in all spheres, including healthcare. https://www.healthcare.gov/developers/
Word of an API guru
Of particular interest was a lecture held by Kin Lane, an API expert, that has tried/reviewed all of the APIs available, which is more than 11 thousand. This lecture, called “The Kin Lane Show” is a dynamic, an amalgam of previous lectures and Kin Lanes own experiences and ideas.
Also, he can provide further information on the government’s work with APIs.
He is definitely a person to talk to, if you own or plan to develop a healthcare API (or any other kind of API really).
Among other things…
There was also talk about how to improve the work of developers, or how to better manage your product life cycle. There are a couple of good ideas here: