In a sold-out conference venue in central Berlin today, more than 450 people attended the first day of the combined API Strategy & Practice and APIDays Conference. Keynotes by Chris Taggart from OpenCorporates, Sébastien Cevey from The Guardian and Mandy Waite from Google Cloud Platform gave life to the theme “A Web of APIs.”
Introductory remarks by conference organizers 3scale, API Evangelist, Sphere.io and OAuth.io again drew attention to the code of conduct for conference attendance. This has been a key part of previous events, aimed at ensuring that the API industry helps build bridges between the business and technical sides of API strategy and that the conference is accessible and open to all. Both of the event series — API Strategy & Practice and APIDays — began at a time when wider tech conferences were giving center stage to presentations that often marginalized women or were dominated by male speakers, so the overt messaging of the API economy as a welcoming space is a much-welcomed reminder for all participants.
In opening remarks, 3scale CEO Steven Willmott drew attention to the often-hidden growth among APIs: those that are largely consumed within their own industry verticals, the increasing use of private and partner APIs, and those open APIs used in specific communities.
And already in discussions throughout the day, there is a sense that many of those participating in the event are as interested in private (internal) APIs being used in the enterprise or across business and company locations as they are in externally facing (open) APIs.
For example, presentations later in the day by Jason Harmon (PayPal) and Kirsten Hunter (Akamai Technologies) led to a series of questions from the audience around applying best practices to internal API use cases. As Harmon pointed out, best-practice principles are just as useful for internal API development, noting that it is often the case that internal APIs become the basis of proof-of-concept product design down the track. Where this has to be done quickly, Harmon says, “you want to avoid developers learning what ‘fast development’ really looks like, because it is not fun.” Harmon argued that over a five-year time frame, internal APIs are increasingly becoming exposed as public, open APIs, so building them as such from the beginning means a better developer experience for internal teams but also paves the way for later agility and industry competitiveness.
Other keynotes in the morning sessions also touched lightly on this API maturity cycle theme:
- Taggart from OpenCorporates foresees that in the next five years, consumption of the open company information data sets will be completely API-based.
- Cevey from The Guardian talked about how using hypermedia APIs will become essential to how The Guardian can scale its media and content systems in the immediate future.
- Waite from Google Cloud Platform shared the simple assertion that at Google, everything either is or has an API.
Day One at API Strategy & Practice and APIDays Berlin
So far, the sense I get at this conference is that among businesses just getting started, the API decision has been made. Even last year, conference participants included a portion of those who were trying to gather evidence and arguments they could take back to their businesses around the need to move toward prioritizing an API strategy.
At this conference, there seems to be more of a sea change in that even among those who are just getting started, they no longer have to advocate for introducing APIs in the first place — that decision has been made. Those attending point to the managers and C-levels who simply know that APIs are the direction they must head in, even if they do not know what is involved. That may also be a reason for the more vocal discussion around internal APIs, as that is the starting place for some of the audience here.
There also seems to be a greater range of business sizes attending. Again, at previous conferences, I have seen either startups that wanted to build APIs as products from the get-go or enterprises that knew an API strategy was where they must head, and a sprinkle of those in between. So far, in conversations with participants today, there is much more participation across a range of businesses: startups yes, but increasingly small and medium businesses that are starting their API journey, as well as enterprises and serial entrepreneurs.
And while a much smaller part of the discussions, more talk around nontechnical end-user ingestion of APIs is already bubbling up. Among API providers here today, several are already targeting end users beyond the developer community, and others are experimenting with creating tools that enable nondevelopers to consume their APIs. But perhaps that will need to be the theme of a future conference.