​SmartBear, Linux Foundation launch Open API Initiative to Evolve Swagger

SmartBear last week announced the launch of an Open API Initiative (OAI) under The Linux Foundation which will govern the future evolution of the Swagger Specification. In addition, Swagger has been rebranded as Open API Definition Format (OADF), and will be referred to as such henceforth. 

OADF, which offers a specification for describing RESTful APIs, was originally developed by Reverb Technologies. SmartBear acquired it earlier this year and as part of the OAI launch, has donated the OADF Specification to the foundation.

"Swagger (OADF) is considered one of the most popular frameworks for building APIs,” Jim Zemlin, Executive Director at The Linux Foundation, explained. "When an open source project reaches this level of maturity, it just can’t be managed by one company, organization or developer. The Open API Initiative and SmartBear's support will extend this technology to advance connected application development through open standards."

A number of tech heavyweights, including Google, IBM and Microsoft, have signed on as founding members of the OAI. Many of the backers see API description languages as a crucial part of the API ecosystem and believe standards around them are crucial. For example, Marie Wieck, a General Manager at IBM Middleware, stated, "The open governance and ecosystem support behind the Open API Initiative will help advance common standards across industries."

While SmartBear's decision to donate the OADF Specification came as a surprise to some, Tony Tam, the former CEO of Reverb Technologies and now VP of Products, Swagger at SmartBear, revealed that this was actually on the table even before SmartBear acquired Swagger from Reverb.

"I talked about this possibility early on when in discussions with SmartBear," he told ProgrammableWeb.

With the interests of API providers and consumers in mind, SmartBear decided the time was right for the OAI.

Tam expects that it won't take long for the OADF community to see benefits. "As the Swagger specification (OADF) gains more traction, more usage, and is implemented by more services, there will simply be increased choices for the community. Tools will improve, more languages will be added, [and] more companies will be built around providing tooling. This is always a win for the Swagger community," he explained.

According to Tam, the OADF community is already "very engaged" and he points to projects like Swagger for Slate and RESTUnited as examples of what the community is capable of producing. "In general, the more great minds you have working with the same medium (the specification in this case), the better the ecosystem," Tam stated. "What's next? Smart developers working collaboratively in a technology with high demand will create amazing things. That I’m sure of."

As far as the OADF specification itself is concerned, Tam expects even bigger benefits to become apparent when the 3.0 version is unveiled. That version, he says, will contain more improvements, thanks in part to the OAI, which will allow the open source project to collect "more input from forward-looking companies."

An Important Development for the API Ecosystem

The rise of OADF and other API description languages like RAML and API Blueprint is understandable. As Tam pointed out, "There are almost no losers in more consistency around communication. Think of how much more work a tooling vendor has to do to support dozens of API descriptions. Even if programmatic, it's a ton of work."

While there are a number of reasons to believe the market will support multiple API description languages, the creation of the OAI and the early backing it has received from industry leaders demonstrates just how important API description languages have become and will continue to become.

Be sure to read the next Standards article: How Defining Some API Standards and Best Practices Might Benefit Enterprises