What The Wordpress Team Just Did and What You Can Learn From It

For those of you who don't care what can be learned from the Wordpress team's most recent post about its API strategy, here's the tl;dr: Wordpress is on a course to merge a new set of modern RESTful APIs into its core source branch. It's a plan for infrastructure and endpoints that started in 2012 and that will eventually supplant the blogging platform's aging but still functioning XML-RPC, RSS extension, and admin-ajax APIs. 

Here's a story I tell pretty often.

Back around the '93/'94 timeframe, when I was working in the testing labs at PC Week (now eWeek) as a product reviewer, my colleague Eamonn Sullivan said "Come here, I want to show you something." He proceeded to show me how NCSA Mosaic could be used to browse PC Week articles that he'd loaded (and linked-up) into a Linux-based World Wide Web server that was connected to the Internet through PC Week's domain. Not being nearly as visionary as he was, I thought it was pretty cool but I wasn't blown away. I thought the work with PC Week's content that another colleague -- Jeffrey Frentzen -- was doing with Gopher was equally impressive. Drawing an incredulous laugh from me, Sullivan clicked around PC Week's first Web site and said, "One day, everyone will have one of these (a Web site)."  He didn't mean just every business. He meant every business and person.

Over twenty years later (and proving my inability to see the bigger picture), Sullivan's prediction has more than come true. Between the plain old Web and the various social media sites (Facebook, Tumbler, LinkedIn, etc.), pretty much every person has one or more Web sites whose content they control and that anyone can visit to find out more about that person. Even dogs have their own Web sites. One day, if you believe what Qipp founder Stefan Zanetti (kind of a modern day Sullivan) told me, most discreet things will have their own Web sites too, even if those things cannot be physically connected to the Internet. Don't believe him? Human beings themselves are not physically connected. At least most of us aren't. The groundwork has already been laid.

Back in 2013, Devpost director of business development wrote that a company without APIs is like a computer without Internet. That headline is practically our mantra here at ProgrammableWeb as we continue to journal the API economy. But we also need to toss some bits of Sullivan, Zanetti, the idea of the quantified self, and the Internet of Things into the witch's brew. It's not just about how companies without APIs will be like computers without the Internet. It's also everybody and everything. There will come a day, whether we like or not, when we and the things we own are all API providers. In the same way that most people are sensitized to the role that social media plays in the world order, they will eventually be sensitized to the role of APIs if they aren't already. By then, much the same way your Facebook or Tumblr is your personal Web site, APIs will be disguised (and maybe even branded) under a different, significantly more marketable name. 

So, what does any of this have to do with Wordpress?

Much like the consumerization of IT whereby our experiences as consumers of personal technology raised our expectations of workplace technology, I believe there will be a similar consumerization of APIs. This trend will not just be driven by the aforementioned API-orientation of everything around you. To some extent, this will be fueled by tools that enable meer mortals to remix APIs into apps without the intervention of a developer. APIs will be table stakes. Jeff Bezo's now infamous mandate that everyone should marshall their corners of Amazon towards a service-orientation or be fired will become the clarion call of all employees and staff at every organization. Not because our CEOs are self-styled protégés of Jeff Bezos, but because of our personal experiences. Our inclination will naturally be to approach every problem that involves information (and what problem doesn't?) with a Bezos-like API mentality.

Which brings us to the post from the Wordpress team and what can be learned from it.

I don't know that I've ever read a post quite like this one from an API team, or any team for that matter and I'm not sure what impressed me most about it. I'm sure there are others. But if I could bottle the way it tells a story, its creativity, tone, passion and candor, I would.

David Berlind is the editor-in-chief of ProgrammableWeb.com. You can reach him at david.berlind@programmableweb.com. Connect to David on Twitter at @dberlind or on LinkedIn, put him in a Google+ circle, or friend him on Facebook.

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