API Integration: a World of Possibility, a World of Dependence

Google MapsA recent PC World article titled "As Facebook Service Goes, So Goes the Internet" scratched the surface of some inherent dangers of our increasingly interconnected Internet. By its very nature, the current generation of the internet is interconnected: "Web 2.0 is a loosely defined intersection of web application features that facilitate participatory information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design, and collaboration on the World Wide Web." The PC World article traced some problems that mere inclusion of a simple sharing interface can cause. When Facebook suffered a bad day, the top twenty news sites experienced load times of 12.5 seconds (compared to the usual 5-7 seconds). Top retail sites load times slowed to 5.7 seconds from the typical 2.2. seconds. All of this dragging because of a poorly performing "Like" button at a Facebook data center? This could have much larger implications for companies that are inherently reliant on data from external sources (e.g. websites pulling third-party data via APIs).

Consider an extremely popular API like the Google Maps API. Over 350,000 websites have integrated the Google Maps API and rely on its data. Unlike the Facebook "like" button, many companies derive a large portion of their value from the data gathered from the Google Maps API. Accordingly, if Google Maps has a bad day, the core business of many companies is devastated.

In addition to websites relying on data pulled from third-party APIs, the move to social media as a day-to-day business tool also demands web uptime from multiple parties. Companies are leery, but interested in moving from tradition business communications to a social Platform. According to a recent survey from Information Week, a leading cause of hesitation is integration issues and ease of adoption. The most common implementation of social collaboration in the workplace currently implemented is a standalone approach: "[E]mployees switch back and forth between their day-to-day work and the social application, interrupting their regular work to be 'social'." To combat the standalone approach, many companies have published APIs that allow social platforms to interact with each other. For instance, Salesforce.com's Chatter integrates with Rypple, and an API allows further Integration with Jive. Should such integration become common in the business place, the world becomes dependent on more than just Facebook for its website performance. In a fully connected, social world, any website pulling data via an API is dependent on every site it pulls data from.

The web today presents integration and collaborative capabilities that will disrupt current business practices and lead to industries never dreamed of. However, such an environment creates a dependence that previously did not exist across the web. The new generation of web companies and applications depends on everybody up, all the time.

Be sure to read the next Social article: LinkedIn Shuts Down Headhunting App: How Open is Open?