The “API Economy” Isn’t a Fad, But It Won’t Eat Backend Tech

August 30, 2016 - 2 minutes read

API ecosystem

“Software is eating the world,” goes the infamous quip from startup investor Marc Andreessen. If that’s true, then APIs are part of a balanced diet for mobile app developers.

Sure, the “API trend” that promised developers the ability to patch together complex software with APIs alone never really came to pass, but cloud APIs have proven to be surprisingly useful for a particular sort of startup — specifically, the ones that need to move fast and break things.

Uber, for example, used cloud APIs to handle aspects of their service, from payments to location functions to SMS notifications. Doing so allowed them to move quickly and test out ideas without creating or maintaining complex tech stacks on their own dime. Success stories like this drive the “API economy,” and while it hasn’t eaten software quite like software’s eaten the world, it’s come close in recent years.

Companies like Twilio are the logical conclusion for the “API economy,” creating a unicorn IPO out of a simple backend need to send and receive SMS without building a custom stack.

The problem with creating heavily API-dependent applications is the tendency for APIs to fail — which creates problems for London mobile app developers when that API’s data is essential to an app’s functioning. For most startups, the secret to success is finding a balance between custom backend function and third-party API services. Those like Uber who find a sweet spot between custom tech and moving quickly reap big rewards.

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