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Api Predictions 2014
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2013 has been an impressive year for API technology both in terms adoption, technology and investment. The number of APIs listed in the ProgrammableWeb directory crossed 10,000 for the first time, there were investments and acquisitions, as well as multiple new conferences on APIs sprang up during the year including our own API Strategy and Practice Co-organised with API Evangelist. There were also new initiatives like API Commons that try to address some of the longer-term industry challenges.
At 3scale the number of live customer APIs we power has already more than doubled over the year and so has API traffic.
So after a great 2013, we asked ourselves what next year might have in store %u2013 here are our API Predictions 2014! (These predictions were also kindly published at Business to Community.)
(Predictably) More API Growth: an unsurprising first prediction given the many new API rollouts in 2014, but all indications are that the number of new APIs will continue to accelerate. The number of public APIs listed in well know directories has just reached 10,000 and there are many more private and semi-private APIs outnumbers the public APIs. These private APIs include a wide assortment of growing categories including mobile backends, SAAS integration APIs, heavyweight B2B integrations being replaced by APIs or even APIs for in home electronic hardware devices such as the Philips Hue lightbulb.
In 2014 we expect these trends to continue with the number of public and private APIs climbing to between 100,000 and 200,000 %u2013 the lower bound of which we may already be close to if estimates that private APIs outnumber public by as much as 9:1 are correct. We expect the growth to take two forms %u2013 continued new API rollouts (as an indicator 3scales sees 100%u2019s of new signups per months and 10%u2019s of new API launches per month) and also a gradual increase in visibility for many private APIs as companies open up to progressively wider audiences.
Broadening Mainstream Adoption: the second and perhaps more important prediction with regards to growth is a broadening of the types of company launching APIs %u2013 these now include Sportswear Companies, Retailers, High Tech Equipment Manufacturers, Construction Companies, City Governments, Charities and almost every economic sector we can think of. We expect this trend to continue and deepen. In a study for our recent ebook we identified five key use cases for APIs from mobile enablement to driving business transactions, and these five types of value seems to be transversal %u2013 applying to almost every business sector.
API Copyright will be a key debate: with the re-opening of the Oracle v%u2019s Google Java copyright case, the specter of copyright enforcement over API specifications has returned and the case could have wide ranging implications if overturned %u2013 implying that specific interfaces patterns could be copyright protected and re-use prevented. While in some cases protection may be warranted, general copyright for APIs would likely have a deep chilling effect on innovation %u2013 effectively locking up common and critical interface patterns and barring usage by others. Activities like API Commons may help to build up a body of re-usable patterns %u2013 but efforts such as this are still in their infancy %u2013 the copyright debate will be an important feature of 2014.
Service description technologies will come sharply into focus: one of the key emerging challenges for REST APIs is that API Providers rarely, if ever, publish locatable machine parsable meta-data about their APIs that can be found and processed. While there are some emerging formats such as WADL and Swagger available, as well as new ones such as Blueprint and RAML emerging, they are at best partial solutions and not widely adopted. This lack of automated descriptions hampers everything from the generation of stub libraries to API discovery %u2013 for example, an API search engine is unlikely to emerge until publishing such electronic descriptions becomes the norm.
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