The open API secret

The biggest flip the technology age has done on the industrial era is the open API. For the uninitiated, an open API (Application Program Interface) is a word used to describe sets of technologies that enable websites to interact with each other. It is also a system where web companies ‘open up’ their platform for external non affiliated software developers to create applications on. Facebook most famously did this with their ‘Facebook Platform‘.

While this sounds like some kind of nerd nirvana, it is actually a counter intuitive move that forms a large part of the marketing genius of social web 2.0 applications. And that is outsourcing the R&D to total strangers. That is, entrepreneurs who have new and interesting ways to mash up their content. It is quite revolutionary in fact. Corporations from the pre-web industrial era would rarely let people use their logo, let alone open up part of the factory for hackers to come in and try and build something interesting. But this is exactly what is happening, the most amazing stuff is usually coming from external organisations and the entire ecosystem is the beneficiary.

  • Existing web companies get their new product development for free
  • Entrepreneurs get a shot at being acquired by the firms whose API they focus on

The open API idea has to be one of the major reasons why technology companies are eating the world. The only question remaining is why don’t old world industrial companies open up their doors to some new, fresh and external innovation?


9 Comments The open API secret

  1. Tim Lovitt

    Agree it’s been amazing of late – but it also reminds me of the early days of personal computing where msoft had their first wins when hardware manufacturers inadvertently outsourced their software dev, the chipsets having in effect an open API.

    As such, how do we keep it at this stage, when everything is new and doable. Or will it always be, now that the resources for innovation are so much more accessible?

    Sometimes i think too much.

  2. Steve Sammartino

    Tim, I reckon it will stay this way because the new age has less physical resources, and more intellectual ones… it lends itself to reduced protection and boundaries. I hope we stay ‘open’ for the sake of human innovation and the plight of the species….

    We ‘both’ think too much.

  3. Steve Sammartino

    It seriously is the smart play for brands today…. Why invest in ‘New Product Dev’ when others can do it for us at their cost and we only pay for the winners? (via acquisition). The only curiosity for me is why more companies who actually ‘make stuff’ don’t do it more often…


  4. Ben Rowe

    It’s also a really smart way to spread your online brand.

    I think the way Instagram have done it recently was a very clever move, and as a result you see offline products (photo printing, fridge magnets, etc) that can be ordered online, via spin-off businesses and their API.

    As a result, it increases awareness of instagram.


  5. Steve Sammartino

    Yep, one of the other amazing mashup I noticed last week of Statigram – cool stats and infographics (Auto generated) on your instagram usage. I clear takeover target I’m sure. Just like Tweetie and Twitpic.

    Surely, entrepreneurs should be latching onto big fish quickly if they desire and quick tech exit…

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