Akana this week announced that its API management platform now offers the ability to translate between popular API description languages.
Akana's platform supports RESTful API Modelling Language (RAML), Swagger, Web Application Description Language (WADL) and Web Service Description Language (WSDL). As Akana CTO Alistair Farquharson explained, "API developers can define and document their APIs using a language like RAML, complete with interface definition, model objects and detailed instructions, and the Akana API platform generates all the other description languages with their own formats for interface, model object, and documentation, allowing App developers to choose a language like Swagger that aligns with their preferred development tools."
The end result: API providers can offer a better developer experience without having to themselves adopt all of the API description languages their developers might want.
Description Capabilities a Growing Part of the API Development Landscape
That's a powerful proposition given the growth in popularity of API description languages.
As APIs have become more complex and widely used, API providers have had little choice but to hone how they manage the API development lifecycle. One of the earliest steps in that lifecycle is API definition, and not doing this in code can help API providers avoid many issues. API description languages have fast become the tool of choice for defining APIs.
The benefits of description languages are also apparent later in the lifecycle. As Jerome Louvel, the CEO of PaaS company Restlet, explained, "API languages make it easier to produce documentation, generate client SDKs, enable discovery, and maintain version consistency and security. Once RESTful APIs are described with an API language, they are much easier to manage and work on collaboratively. These benefits are often realized through tools that can interpret the API language.
One API Description Language to Rule Them All, or Not?
The utility of translation technology for API description languages is clear today, but is it possible that the need for translation technology will decline in the future if one language comes to dominate?
While possible, this is an unlikely scenario.
That's because each description language offers something different. WSDL, for instance, is most commonly used to describe SOAP web services. RAML natively describes APIs using YAML, a human-readable data format, while Swagger natively describes APIs using JSON, a favorite format for many developers.
Most importantly, it's important to recognize that API description languages serve different masters and use cases. Providers, for instance, can use description languages to generate documentation, while developers can use them to speed or even automate the implementation of client libraries. Because description languages have a wide range of applications, there's good reason to believe there's room for multiple viable options in the market.
Given this, translation technologies like Akana's could be very important for API providers and developers going forward and it's worth noting that a variety of tools, such as translation tools API Transformer and LucyBot, also aim to make it easier for developers to work with multiple description languages.
Combined with increasingly sophisticated API-centric development tools, the ease and speed with which API providers and developers can build and integrate APIs looks set to continue to improve by leaps and bounds.
Disclosure: MuleSoft, parent company to ProgrammableWeb, is a competitor to the companies mentioned in this article.