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Cloud Expo: Opinion

The Web of APIs = the Web of the Future

Cloud, mobile, social powered by the world's APIs

In 2009 I attended an event with the World Economic Forum on the future of the Internet, both from an economic and technical perspective. Over the last 12 months two trends are becoming even more apparent: (1) the Internet will require more innovative forms of risk hedging beyond just security, and new concepts like CloudInsure will emerge for businesses depending irreversibly on digital technologies. And (2), the cost and complexity of Internet technology will be massively transformed downward by this little known technology advancement called APIs (application programming interfaces).

Below are my observations specifically about the trends of the API market, which is becoming a fascinating commercial environment to truly support "data as a service" on a grand scale.

Available as accessible fountains of data and web services from companies like Google, Skype, ESPN, Facebook, & Foursquare, public APIs are fueling a new world of digital possibilities and innovation, especially to a broader population of Internet participants who access the Internet on millions of worldwide mobile "apps." Today these apps solve mostly small problems but as the market of available APIs expands, larger world problems will be solved and more complex data relationships established. Apps will become the dominant mode of relating disparate data, perhaps between companies that have never formally met one another. APIsare the global glue enabling the means to do it.

The Internet is transforming (once again), this time onto mobile devices powered by data innovation and emerging APIs. As other businesses continue to bring new APIs onto the market - especially globally - then the potential for digital innovation the next ten years is quite astonishing. Data can be a valuable currency asset, but relating data requires an inquisitive mind, a youthful energy, and a spirit of wanting to make something better. Tapping into a broader (younger?) talent pool with wider access to data is not a bad destination given the potential to solve the world's problems through relating more of the world's data.

Over the next few years people will have apps in their hand, their kitchen, their car, and their computers, all powered by a global market of billions of data and service APIs - provided by emerging technology and media giants to traditional brands that offer data "hook ups." The opportunity for businesses will be digital survival and relevance, and the opportunity for the consumer will be a mobile, digital Internet that can expand as quickly and broadly as the human imagination. Through APIs the traditional technical barriers to digital innovation are lowered by quantum leaps, leaving the human imagination to "create an app" to solve problems, both large and small.

Thanks data from Programmableweb, market data now shows we have surpassed 4,000 public APIs into the market, representing a 400% growth rate in the last 18 months alone. It took a previous 8 years to even get to 1,000.

While 4,000 API types might not seem like much, the average call volume of those APIs averages over a billion data exchanges per month for each company in the top 20 of API volumes. Notably, it is estimated by our research that not even 5% of the global open API market has been realized given the newness of this type of technology overlay on traditional IT infrastructures. CIOs should take notice. There are two major trends driving the demand for more open IT assets: the consumer's rapid move to mobile and social platforms, and the emerging financial market opportunity of data as a service. In other words, every business of size must now strive to be a platform for data and web services - even traditional businesses that consume and aggregate unique data sets in support of traditional models and products. Not everyone has to be an Amazon, though they would benefit just by thinking like one: like a platform. APIs are the critical component to achieving such a model.

Winning with APIs and transforming IT to a platform translates to competing in the global market for mobile consumers. And as the new data aggregators have shown us since 2008, APIs also translate to millions of eyeballs on social, mobile, appliance, and any other app that comes along. In the words of one Business of API presenter, "we are future-proofing our business with a data access model that allows us to diversify and grow in a digital future that is often hard to predict." Like few previous fads of the Internet's evolution, APIs are here to stay, with Gartner predicting this year that over 75% of the Fortune 1000 will have open API' by 2014.

What does this mean for businesses thinking about social, mobile, and cloud computing? It means that the digital business of the next ten years is the business of APIs, and this trend will cut across every economic sector that relies upon "data in" and "data out" at massive scale. What does this emerging API trend mean for the consumer? It means that the next innovations of mobile apps and web mashups are just getting started. More importantly perhaps, easier access to the world's data means that the youthful aspirations to make the Internet better are firmly within our reach. Welcome to the world of the Fortune 1,000 looking outside for data innovation - to a digital Neverneverland and the expanding market of APIs.

The mobile web can still progress - grow old perhaps - without having to fully grow up.

More Stories By Drew Bartkiewicz

Drew Bartkiewicz is founder of Apinomic, a NY agency that specializes in the business of data platforms and digital channels that leverage managed API's. As a former VP Strategy Services at Mashery, and alumnus of salesforce.com, BroadVision, and The Hartford, Drew has helped build over 25 successful data platforms (3 he founded) and was selected for several Future of the Internet initiatives with the World Economic Forum. Drew has previously founded two successful companies in NYC, CyberFactors and CloudInsure, and is often sought as a speaker and writer on technology trends and their impact on culture and business.

Drew possesses a Bachelors of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from the Yale School of Management. He speaks four languages and is an advisor to several early stage NYC start ups. In addition to consulting brands for API Strategy, he is also the Founder of wwww.lettrs.com, the cloud platform for letters, after spending time with youth organizations, technophiles, and his kids discussing ways to elevate their impact in life through the thoughtful fusion of technology and letter writing as a timeless and necessary craft.

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