Thanksgiving is one of those times of the year when everyone naturally gets a little more retrospective. With that in mind now is as good a time as any to reflect on what developers should be thankful for in 2012. To that end, arguably the thing that made developers in the last year more productive than any time in recent memory was RESTful APIs. After all, the value of any application rises in almost direct proportion to the number of other applications it can be integrated with. RESTful APIs have made it easier to integrate applications than ever.
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But as significant as RESTful APIs are it’s what comes next that may have the most profound effect on all of IT. It’s one thing to be able to integrate applications; it’s quite another to be able to create a custom suites of applications that instantly notify and update each other whenever new data is available. While this latter capability has been around for some time, it’s only with the advent of RESTful APIs that we’re going to see that kind of technology come into its own, most notably in the form of user-defined HTTP callbacks in applications that are commonly known as Webhooks.
A good example of how RESTful APIs and Webhooks will be combined to transform the end user application experience comes in the form of the latest version of the Nimble customer relationship management (CRM) application. In addition to adding support for RESTful APIs, the Nimble CRM application supports Webhooks to automatically allow other applications to not only sense when new updates have been entered into the CRM, but also discover what other applications are present. According to Nimble CEO Jon Ferrara, the goal is to allow end users to create their own best-of-breed suite of applications in which, for example, the Nimble CRM application is tightly integrated with social media management applications from HootSuite.
As time goes on, RESTful APIs combined with Webhooks are going to make it possible for end users are going to get a lot more comfortable with creating their own virtual suites of applications, in effect creating a user experience similar to what people see in Microsoft Office with having to lock themselves in a single application vendor.
For developers the best-of-breed Renaissance period that these technologies enable should result in a new era of application innovation because it will be relatively easy for a user to extend their existing environment to embrace a new application. Of course, like most things in IT, this capability also represents a double-edged sword. The cost of switching out one application for another has never been lower. That said, Ferrara says that he expects to see entire new cottage industries emerge as integrators move to combine different sets of applications in ways that are tailored for a specific industry or business process.
Ultimately, we’re approaching an era where software can finally be bent to meet the needs of the user or the business, versus always requiring them to adjust to the way a particular set of tightly integrated applications has been constructed. In effect, what should occur is nothing short of the mass customization of software. When you stop to think about the power that idea bestows on the average end user, there may be no greater thing to be thankful for from an IT perspective this year or any other for a very long time to come.