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APIs: What got you here won’t get you there

Authors
  • Name
    Zdenek “Z” Nemec
    Twitter
    @zdne

We need to talk about APIs one last time. APIs are great. They connect businesses, enable innovations, improve efficiency, and provide the backbone of e-commerce. But the way we do APIs is broken beyond repair.

I see it all the time. You are a small to mid-size business, and you can't be bothered by API expertise. It is not your job to master APIs. So you put your API together following your favorite influencer and using (preferably free) off the shelf products.

Or you are a large enterprise. You do not even know how many APIs you have. There is no notion of what company capabilities have a digital interface to it --- leading into siloes, bikeshedding, duplication, and difficult collaboration.

Either way, the result is an uncontrolled mess that results in time and money sink in the futile attempt to fix it, only to find an emerging competitor or shadow IT has replaced you.

What's making matters worse is the approach of most of the users. You are an API client. You do not treat consuming API as a dependency or a liability. No contract tests, no plan B in the case API goes down, and no resiliency. Just a blind faith the provider will always be there and will not change the interface.

Outside of the API experts circle, I have yet to meet a person who loves to build or consume APIs. I have not met a single person who enjoys reading API documentation (or writing, save for the tech writers). I have not heard of anyone who loves developer portals or enjoys learning HTTP. Heck who is even capable of comprehending the HTTP! Who is up to be on-call when the API stops working when the integration with an API goes down.

And as for security? You need expertise within expertise to get that one partly right. Or you can purchase expensive, complex API management software and hope they will help or train you.

Worldwide, only 15% of employees are engaged in their job.

Jim Clifton

It is 2020, and building and consuming APIs is slow, expensive, tedious, and error-prone, resulting in brittle systems. It is a liability and always a security consideration. In 2020 APIs rely on hope.

Yet businesses need to connect digitally more than ever. In the 2020's global shakedown and the explosion of home offices, previously unthinkable things are now moving to digital. All those quietly cobbled together by brave people connecting the systems by hand and staying up late to maintain the connection

But we do not have enough of these heroic people to fight the sky-rocketing complexity and exploding demand. And even if we did, they can only work this fast while still making mistakes. Besides, wouldn't it be amazing if they can focus on business problems instead of non-stop wiring and rewiring cables on a switchboard?

Furthermore, most businesses think that digitally transformed organization is at best about sending emails, using Microsoft Office, and adopting Salesforce CRM. Their digital presence ends with having a website and digital marketing.

This line of thinking is not going to cut it in the AI--connected world. Bots as any other computer program can't process the emails or websites. How will a machine shop? How will a machine find and learn a thing?

What got us here won't get us any further

Companies who understand the importance of the digital interface to their business are spending a lot of money and effort on launching API programs. Those who don't find themselves unable to innovate, deliver new products, and act efficiently. Often, a domain aggregator or startup virtualizes the incumbent, directing it to an insecure position.

We have created technologies to mitigate some of the pains by employing meticulous automation, standardization, and governance based on API description formats such as OpenAPI Spec, AsyncAPI Spec, or GraphQL Schema. But these are incredibly complex for non-API experts requiring continuous commitment and discipline.

Then there is discovery. You need a developer portal or at least an API catalog. If your offering is public, you need to pay to Google to play along with SEO and do all sorts of marketing so people can even notice you and your business interface.

But, both the governance and web-based discovery come from the same thinking that got us here.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

Albert Einstein

The irony is none of those problems, costs, wasted time, missed business opportunities, and frustrated people have to be here.

All that is needed is to change thinking:

What if programs could discover and connect to other programs by themselves instead of having people doing it?1

Of course, the programs would also maintain the connection and adapt as needed, resulting in almost no maintenance costs.

That is it.

Superface

Enter superface.ai, the digital interface to business, where organizations can publish their capabilities at leisure with minimal costs, and their customers can discover and connect in milliseconds.

That is right, connecting to a new API can only take a fraction of a second instead of the weeks of work and infinite maintenance. Superface reduces the costs of providing an API by two thirds and further reduces the integration costs by up to 99,99%. All that so you can focus on your business and application and never worry about APIs again.

What would you create if you could connect to any capability in your organization or on this planet in no time? Let me know!

Yours,

— Z.


  1. There is also a business aspect of this which I will cover in a separate post.