Emerging Themes in API Design and Management: A Summary from Industry Events

Mark Boyd
Sep. 03 2013, 09:00AM EDT

Recent and upcoming API events reveal current themes in API design and management. The wider API developer community continues to strengthen, as does the recognition of the power of APIs in business and government. New events are also sparking developer communities based on geography or interest to crop up across the United States and around the globe.

Following the recent API Craft conference in Detroit, several global meetings of APIdays that spanned San Francisco, Madrid and Paris, the upcoming Nordic APIs events and the APIworld gathering planned for October, several themes are emerging as being key debates in how to approach API design and management amongst business stakeholders and developers.

Security

Issues of security around API began the year as a non-starter at several conferences, lamented occasional ProgrammableWeb guest blogger Andy Thurai, following his participation in APIdays. Amongst developer-driven events, security still appears to be a lower priority discussion topic. For instance, security was noted as an issue in bad API design at the API Craft conference, and was briefly discussed when discussing what API usage issues should be logged, but that was about it. On the other hand, security is a key theme in at least three presentations at mid-September’s Nordic APIs and is the kick-off subject in one stream at the APIworld conference being held in October in San Francisco.

APIs to fuel the Internet of Things

Increasing frustration at the progress towards an Internet of Things-envisioned future could indicate that this technology is currently entering the trough of disillusionment in the hype cycle of emerging technologies.

Alan Languirand spoke at API Craft about designing APIs for robots and aimed to inspire developers to start linking APIs to sensor-based technologies, but little followup discussion was held, according to the conference proceedings. Nordic APIs aims to step back a little and look at viable business models that could help realize the IoT potential, with Ellen Sundh (Coda Collective), David Henricson Briggs (Playback Energy), Bradford Stephens (Ping Identity), Kin Lane (API Evangelist) and Ronnie Mitra (Layer 7 Technologies) all weighing in with their ideas. Meanwhile APIworld is focusing more on mobile application development as a more prominent issue.

Business of APIs

Separate events are being organized to focus on the role APIs play in business. Nordic APIs is hoping to use its September event to lay the groundwork for generating the sort of buzz that will then lead to greater participation in a specific business event in November. Speaking with ProgrammableWeb, organizers Travis Spencer and Andreas Krohn said:

"We're imagining a lot of very emboldened and energized engineers will leave Stockholm in September and suggest that their bosses and colleagues go back in November to hear it from a business-related point of view."

Meanwhile, Mashery are hosting three events – in San Francisco on September 10, in New York on October 1 and in London on November 13 – to focus on how established companies (like CocaCola and CapitalOne) are using APIs, alongside startups like Uber and Runkeeper. These events are split into two streams: one designed for business executives in charge of mobile and online business departments; and one for more company-wide strategists who may be looking to APIs to help forge new market entry. More focus on how existing brands are using APIs as a business tool is expected over the coming months. API management platform 3scale for example, are at the moment talking up their partnership with Campbell Soup Company to deliver their first public API. More stories of how well-known brands and established businesses are making use of APIs can be expected in the months to come, specifically from events like the Mashery series and Cloud Foundry’s Platform event which will also focus on use cases from established businesses.

Community Development

This year, events have helped create new developer communities based on either geography or interest. APIdays led the way in the first half of the year, with three worldwide events showing a demand amongst developers and business leaders to come together. APIdays has promised followup events in more cities as a result of their initial success, and have begun planning for a global event to be held in December in Paris.

The midyear event of 2013 was API Craft, which brought together some of the brightest minds working in API design. Speaking to ProgrammableWeb about the outcomes of API Craft, co-organizer Kevin Swiber told us:

"We had 104 total attendee registrations.

This conference provided an opportunity for API Craft community members to come together, in person, and answer difficult questions. The community far exceeded our expectations. Attendees really took the principles of the conference to heart. This is the only conference at which I've witnessed a Midwest startup, a privately-held financial institution, and a Fortune 500 company take an opportunity to collaboratively solve similar problems in API design. This was truly an example of smart people leading the future of APIs. Open, passionate, and outcome-based collaboration, documented in the public proceedings, is the greatest success of our API Craft Conference.

Since our conference, we've seen new API Craft monthly meetups emerge! Conference attendees have independently started API Craft New England, API CraftDC, and API Craft San Francisco. We hope this is a trend that continues."

Organizers of Nordic APIs found a similar interest amongst local developers for a geographically based developer community:

"The Nordics countries share a certain unity that makes us believe that we'll realize our vision. If you have a similar ambition and believe it can work in your region, go for it! It's a lot of fun, we can also attest to that."

Meanwhile, events like the On Deck Cup, Samsung Developer conference and PerfectTrip DevCon are hoping to build communities of interest regardless of where the developer is located, instead focusing on niches like sports data, the technology layer, or business travel respectively.

With major events planned around the world from September through to December, there will be several opportunities for current ground in the emerging API industry to be firmed up, and new outposts and directions to emerge. Perhaps most optimistically arising from these events is the chance to join a developer community based on either where you live or your business interests.

Mark Boyd is a ProgrammableWeb writer covering breaking news, API business strategies and models, open data, and smart cities. I can be contacted via email, on Twitter, or on Google+.

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