Building a Business API

April 26th, 2009

API stands for Application Programming Interface.  A geek term which means you can build a system that uses functions from another (through the API).

Google, Digg, Twitter use APIs to stimulate innovation and really open the platform up.  

Having an API maximises the potential of your service.  Smart on every level: leverage, stimulate innovation, buy out those that work, learn from those that fail…

Arising amongst these purely ‘tech’ services are startups building web platforms that connect the previously unreachable  through their online platform.  Once they are connected innovation can really happen.

Take for example, by working with many different banks across the USA and importing their data into Mint they provide an industry standard.  The data is in a centralised location, abides by the same rules and can be opened up.

You see once you have ubiquity across an industry of data abiding the same structured rules you then provide a platform for innovation to happen over the API.

What could you do with Mint transaction data?

Compare spending versus external events (like google news, browsing habits, locality), provide a ‘new’ cashflow management tool, let people check their bank account via twitter or text.

Imagine the possibilities if you can create the same platform model in other industries, a platform for every postshop in the world, connecting all car yards or even every mobile network in the world.

Build a real life business api, open it up, see what happens.

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2 Responses to “Building a Business API”

  1. Paul Spence Says:

    Offering access to an API is certainly a good way to leverage the value of your existing technology and I imagine it is something we ourselves will look at in one form or another in the future.

    However, on the flip side, API users need to be cautious. It would be unwise to build an entire business around the assumption that a particular API will remain universally accessible and unchanged over time.

    Consider all the neat service offerings that have sprung up around Twitter’s API for example. Many of these are useful services that add value to the user experience. But removal of a line of code by Twitter could render many of them useless in an instant. If an API provider changes its business model or acquires new ownership there is no guarantee that life will go on as usual.

  2. Ben Young Says:

    Paul you hold a valid point for the innovators, if they have a compelling business case they can (and have) negotiate ongoing guaranteed access to the API. In the short term though it is a real risk.

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