The fundamental feature at the center of the fourth industrial revolution is precisely what the APIs respond to: interconnection. The ability to combine, mix, aggregate, and offer ever new data, products, services, and information – that were once totally separated from each other – radically changes our lifestyles and, logically, the market in which companies operate.
Think about it for a moment: back in the early 2000s, we only needed the phone to make calls (with some minor exceptions). Today on our phones we have an app for anything: for sharing photos, ordering a pizza, booking a taxi, following the news in real-time, checking in for a flight. All this mentioned is possible thanks to the Web API.
Becoming a “Platform Company” thanks to the APIs
Web APIs allow companies to make a big change. APIs open organizations’ IT systems to the web, by disrupting traditional business models and by accessing to increasingly innovative services in different sectors – this is also possible thanks to the growing diffusion of the cloud and mobile channels.
Companies such as Amazon, AWS, eBay, Facebook, Twitter have been able to make their services prevalent thanks to the API. For example, think about the SDK kits for Android or iOS, their respective APIs, and how they have allowed Google and Apple to enormously expand their distribution channels, to become platforms and marketplaces that, thanks to developers, boomed the app market worldwide.
It is no coincidence that Kristin R. Moyer, Vice President and Distinguished Analyst of the research company Gartner, said: “The API economy is an enabler for turning a business or organization into a platform”.
The opportunity to become a Platform Company is increasingly evident today: thanks to the API, companies gain a new ability to connect to their customers, by expanding their channels, innovating their offer, and improving engagement.
The OpenAPI standard and its contribution to the API Economy
The more APIs spread, the more it is important to find common standards for their design, to encourage their reuse and sharing between applications, projects, and even different companies.
To standardize the use of APIs, the OpenAPI Initiative (OAI) was born in 2015, as an open-source project under the Linux Foundation, which promotes the OpenAPI Specification (OAS).
The OAS is an open-source framework for the definition and creation of RESTful APIs (Representational State Transfer) according to an open approach. The RESTful API is an architectural style for the design of networked applications and web services and uses HTTP requests for data creation, reading, updating, and deletion operations. Since they are independent of the type of technological platform, and they are based on standards such as the HTTP protocol, the RESTful APIs have ease of use advantages, performance, maintainability, scalability, management flexibility, which make them suitable for different technological and business needs. In addition, RESTful APIs contribute to the development of the API economy.
API as a Product and the OpenAPI paradigm
Thanks to their diffusion and standardization, we have seen APIs become a central element of companies’ offerings. This is why today we speak of “API as a Product” (AaaP), the API is the real business product. As a matter of fact, the API itself contains the heart of the value that the company provides to its users, while the digital channel simply becomes a vehicle – the space – in which the relationship between brands and consumers takes place. The same information can, therefore, be displayed on multiple channels, increase its value, and make an omnichannel strategy effective.