The Age of Context and the API Economy – One can’t exist without the other

At the APIStrat conference last week there was a great panel on the API Economy and we were lucky enough to have Craig Burton speaking (thank you Craig). As a follow up he’s kindly agreed to share with us the occasional guest blog post on the API Economy and we’re happy to host them – he also writes at craigburton.com and tweets @craigburton. This is the first and one we couldn’t agree with more – the Age of Context is definitely upon us – but APIs are going to play a large part in makeing it happen. Over to Craig!

Veteran writers and observers Shel Israel and Robert Scoble recently published their new book, “The Age of Context”. The thesis of the book is solid. I think the book is spot on and relevant to what is really happening. At the same time, it misses a critical ingredient to their predicted perfect storm. Indeed without it, I predict, the Age of Context will never come into existence.

Storm’s Coming

The opening thesis of the book uses the 2005 Batman movie screenplay where a mysterious caped person suddenly appears and warns Commissioner Gordon. Storm’s Coming.

“For the next two hours of the movie all hell breaks loose. Finally peace is restored. When people resume their lives after so much tumult and trouble, they discover that life after the storm was better than it was before.”

Scoble and Israel go on with the storm metaphor:

“We are not caped crusaders, but we are here to prepare you for an imminent storm. Tumults and disruption will be followed by improvements in health, convenience, safety and efficiency. In his book The Perfect Storm author Sebastian Junger described a rare but fierce weather phenomena caused by the convergence of three meteorological forces: cold air, hot hair and tropical moisture. Such natural occurrences cause 100-ft waves, 100-mph winds and—until recently—occur every 50 to 100 years.”
“Our perfect storm is not made of up three forces but five and are technological not meteorological: mobile devices, social media, sensors, big data, and location-based services.

What the book misses

The rest of the chapters are a good read, and while I disagree with a few of the points, overall the book nails it.

Almost.

There is another force so important and so critical to the success of the Age of Context that it needs to be examined and understood. The critical force I speak of is: The API Economy.

The five technological forces Scoble and Israel identify must be programmatically interconnected via well-known simple APIs.
In short, the Age of Context will never happen properly without a vibrant proactive API Economy.

An API Economy includes the technology, API Management and an active development community interested in participating.

Further, the effect of adding this force to the equation will eclipse any sort of technological “storm” anyone has ever seen or even thought of. The storm metaphor is a good one. But add the force of the API Economy and in geological/meteorological terms, think tectonic plates shift and global tsunami.

The API Economy

The emerging economic effects enabled by companies, governments, non-profits, and individuals of using APIs to provide direct programmable access to their systems and processes.

Some well-known examples of APIs that are significant are the Netflix phenomena. Roku, Amazon, eBay, Salesforce.com, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Twilio are all examples of companies using APIs to change their business and even how the Internet is used and how it works. The Health Care industry is also very active in providing APIs. The ProgrammableWeb shows there are 129 medical APIs. The controversial Healthcare.gov web site has a powerful developers program with APIs.

Programmable Web tracks open published APIs and categorizes them on a daily basis. Programmable Web has now over 10,000 APIs listed and the growth continues to be at over 100% compound annual growth.

Needless to say, it is very important for every organization to understand what its role is going to be in this critical emerging API Economy.

Summary

There is no question in my mind about the Age of Context and its subsequent disruption and following benefits. We are just not recognizing that the ultimate success Age of Context will be enabled by the advent of API ubiquity.