The API field progressed in leaps and bounds in 2015 with impressive new APIs, standards advances, conferences and unfortunately also more negative events like security breaches (see our 2015 roundup). Given all that activity, it’s a tough call to guess what might be next. What’s certainly true is that there will be more growth in store! There are already prediction pieces out there for 2016 like Yves de Montcheuil’s, Neha Sampat’s great 10 API predictions presentation at APIDays Paris and Mark Boyd’s great piece on the potential economic impact of APIs in 2016.
APIs are showing up in a wide range of 2016 projections in all sorts of industries from financial services to data centers and healthcare. We’re also expecting a bumper year for API growth. However, this still leaves questions: what the growth areas will be, and what will be important to get the most out of 2016 for APIs? Here’s our shot at 2016 API predictions:
1. Security will remain a key issue: The number and frequency of serious security breaches in 2015 (amongst them notable API related incidents) was one of the big stories. In 2016 we expect to see companies invest significantly in prevention. This should reduce and prevent incidents. However, there are still very large numbers of unprotected APIs accessible over the web (often mobile application backends) that are at risk, and unfortunately we expect to see other high profile breaches.
2. Automation, microservices and APIs will become a driving force in enterprise IT: As companies restructure their IT systems, containerization has become an unstoppable trend (see @thenewstack’s useful ebook series on the topic). This in turn is leading to a build out of the APIs used to access both internal and external services, enabling much greater agility for existing and new products. Microservices still retain some of their latent buzzword perceptions, but the benefits are real and APIs are a key part of their delivery. We also expect continued growth in the use of Puppet, Chef, Ansible and other devops scripting tools for internal and external deployments. The automation possible with these tools is key to large, robust API deployments.
3. Engagement and usage information will become even more critical for API owners: A trend that was rising throughout 2015 and we expect to see continue is that visibility into user behavior (internal apps, customers, partners) will become essential as more APIs become critical in revenue functions for companies. This applies not only to data businesses that monetize APIs directly, but to any API where customer or partner use of the APIs is critical to their user experience. We expect engagement information (who is using the API, how much, with what call patterns, increases, decreases) to be key parts of necessary API infrastructure.
4. Bimodal IT will transform into what it needs to be – internal platforms for success for larger companies (mirroring what small companies are already doing): The notion of two speed (or bimodal) IT is not new and has been significant on the analyst agenda in 2015. It has also been criticized for failing to encourage innovation in core systems. However, we increasingly see bimodal IT being applied in a different way – as the platformization strategy. One part of the organization focuses on wrapping and restructuring older core systems into a growing set of reliable, reusable APIs (mode 1) whiles others (mode 2) take these to deliver new applications. This pattern innovates in both parts of the organization. This transformation is already on the analyst agenda for 2016.
5. Internet of Things applications with APIs will see big visible deployments this year: The potential for connected device applications is enormous and is beginning to drive API usage. As Neha Sampat put it in her APIDays keynote “The Internet of Things it is not… The Internet of APIs it is.” There are already many examples of IoT deployments. However we expect 2016 to bring bigger public rollouts of large industrials (see Teresa Tung’s excellent APIStrat keynote). Large industrials, city governments and consumer products are likely to be amongst the biggest growth sectors.
6. Realtime, evented and hypermedia patterns will become key parts of the API design tool chest: Each API conference this year has seen great sessions on realtime APIs, evented systems and especially hypermedia APIs (see the great realtime and hypermedia sessions from APIStrat Austin). While to date they have often been considered as “different types” of APIs, we expect techniques and architecture to become key parts of the mainstream toolset of considerations for API design. There are still infrastructure differences between different APIs, but the techniques from each will increasingly form part of the same design menu.
7. API management will grow in importance for both public and private APIs: While this statement should come with a flag for vendor bias (since 3scale is a major API management vendor), APIs are now mission critical for many companies and effective management is essential for success. Solid security, scalability, usage visibility, lifecycle management, slick developer experiences are all no longer “optional” extras for APIs. 3scale’s inbound service enquiries more than doubled between June and December this year, and we expect the trend to continue.
8. Citizen integrators and non-technical users will lift the most successful APIs: In 2016, developer experience will no longer be enough for the best APIs. End user experience will count just as much. Increasingly, API success will depend upon not only on developer usage but how non-technical end users benefit. We expect more traction for services like Zapier, IFTTT and Blockspring but also efforts from individual APIs to provide explorers, query generators and other friendly tools. Check out the excellent APIStrat API consumption panel and our own big picture view of the importance of non-technical users benefiting from APIs.
9. Companies will dig deep into the challenges of identity, security, access control: One of our 2015 predictions included the prediction that identity, privacy and access control concerns would lead to more standards for APIs and private data coming together. This did not quite get off the ground in 2015. There may not be new technology in 2016 per-se, but we do expect API providers (and vendors) to have to grapple with increasingly complex identity and rights issues. With IoT and mobile devices become increasingly prevalent, there are often many new identities to deal with: provider identity, app developer identity, application identity, device identity and user identity – with access control permissions and policies for each level. Navigating these from an infrastructure, security and developer experience perspective will be a challenge for the most complex APIs.
10. Standards will cause an explosion of tooling: The maturing of API definition standards, especially Swagger’s move into the Linux Foundation to form the OAI, is very positive progress for the industry. The solidification of API definition formats has the potential to touch off an explosion in compatible tools and services. Services such as API Changelog, APIMATIC, Postman Swagger/RAML support and others will no doubt grow. But they will be joined by others now that there is more cross-organization support. Shared standards provide a huge opportunity, and we’re hopeful the spirit of collaboration will carry the community forward!
Lastly, as a bonus we have a number 11:
11. We’ll see at least one pure play API business model company IPO in 2016: There are now multiple public companies for which APIs have been critical to their growth. However, as yet there’s still no public company for whom their APIs is their core business model. Here’s looking at you Twilio. Or maybe someone else will beat Twilio to the punch!
We hope these predictions are useful food for thought, but they’re not a roadmap or investment advice. Buy us a drink if they help you, but don’t sue us if they turn out to be completely wrong :-).
We’d love feedback and debate – hit us up in the comments on Twitter!
We wish you a wonderful, happy and productive 2016 from the whole 3scale team!