The Importance of APIs: Imagine a World Without Them

Posted on Monday 5th December 2016 10:30

What would happen if we woke up tomorrow and APIs simply didn’t exist? We know they’re are a part of modern technological development and disruption, but do we really understand the importance of APIs?

A World Without APIs

Imagine this: the clock strikes midnight and APIs no longer exist.

Off goes your alarm and you reach for your smartphone; Facebook, Twitter and every other social network isn’t working. Your weather app has no information to help you choose the appropriate outfit for the day and Google can’t find any traffic updates to help plan your travel. If you like to browse the morning headlines then you’re out of luck – the news app has gone silent.

Without APIs, we’re left with ‘application islands’ – a world of isolated data and applications that can’t communicate. Without the ‘digital glue’ of APIs to hold systems together, the technologies we have come to expect and rely on simply won’t work… and it doesn’t just stop at social media.

A World Without APIs

Instant messaging applications give way to phone, email or SMS – assuming that none of the back-end systems of your network provider use APIs to deliver their service. Global communication as we know it is gone. Without APIs, any and all services run from remote or cloud-based servers cease to function.

Say goodbye to Youtube, Netflix, FreeSat, Sky+ or Tivo; you’ll have to rely on video entertainment services delivered by cable. Online bookings won’t work; everything from the cinema to flight and rail travel will only be bookable via interaction with a human being.

Application Islands

You can’t check your banking information online anymore; you’ll have to visit a branch for details and an ATM to withdraw cash – again, assuming that ATM back-ends are API-free. Shopping online is a thing of the past – it’s back to physical catalogues and coupons sent via paper post.

We’ll be amazed by how many seemingly safe, non-cloud services fall down because some part of their systems rely on APIs. The standardisation, reuse and global sharing of APIs mean that companies and individuals everywhere leverage them for their business. Processes, services and activities around the world will grind to a halt.

A Future Without APIs

So, what next? Consumer expectation for seamless connectivity and services is a product of APIs. Without them, business strategy will resemble that of 20-30 years ago, when success was dictated by a company’s size and resources.

Organisations worldwide utilise APIs for digital transformation and business growth, adapting to the disruption caused by the 4th Industrial Revolution – disruption that has suddenly stopped. Businesses no longer need to adapt for survival, and those that have failed to keep technologies and processes up-to-date may even be better off.

APIs are a democratiser in business, levelling the playing field so that SMEs and startups can compete with FTSE-100 companies. In our new API-free world, the web-startup from home scenario is no longer possible, and global offerings have to be fundamentally reassessed. The exponential increase in technological development slows to a crawl and businesses growth requires a different kind of innovation – innovation that might be a struggle for many to achieve.

An entire generation of people has grown up with API-powered technologies and services at their fingertips, absorbing information in a totally different way to generations past. The human thought process has evolved; problem-solving now demands the approach of ‘ask Google’ and instant access to information through the internet. This new generation, shouldering the burden of society’s future, will have to learn about technology all over again. It will be a long time before we regain the technological functionality we once had if it ever happens at all.

Why It’s So Important To Understand This

APIs, thankfully, aren’t going anywhere. They’re integral to the way our technologies, society and culture has evolved – which is why businesses can’t afford to ignore them.

APIs are a core part of the disruption in Industry 4.0 and many believe that API-led connectivity is the solution to meeting the increasing demands on IT. A 2016 report about connectivity showed that 91% of business IT decision makers globally have an API strategy in place, or plan to by the end of this year. For the remaining 9%, time is running out to maintain a competitive edge.

There’s no time like now to start forming your API strategy. Need some help? You know who to ask.

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