Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb has written a thorough and thought provoking article during the Web 2.0 Expo (which I was not able to go to at the last minute and am still sulking over). The topic of his post specifically addresses API’s (Application Programming Interfaces). API’s let one application (app) talk to another application.
Here are some quotes and commentary that hit on topics I’ve been thinking about lately:
Nick Gonzales of ad network Social Media said that the early rush to build apps on the Facebook platform should be considered the exception more than the rule. He says it was remarkably easy to build apps on that platform but that hasn’t helped developers make money outside of Facebook. It hasn’t been the kind of opportunity that many big companies have taken advantage of yet, either.
I have to disagree with Nick that the app building we saw on Facebook is the exception not the rule. I do agree that it is not the opportunity big companies thought it was if they were looking for the next multi-million dollar opportunity.
If Seesmic’s acquisition of Twhirl (a funded startup buying an even younger startup) taught me anything it’s that we are seeing the rise of the Micropreneur. API’s make it so easy that anyone can build a super niche focused app that will bring in enough users to make it an acquisition target for someone or bring in a small amount of money to the developer. Where large companies do have an opportunity on these apps is marketing. Either advertising an an app (see Graffiti) or building free apps to give away to communities (think Google gadgets).
Many people we talked to said they wanted APIs and platforms to increase their capacity for determining relevance.
Blogger Eric Eldon of VentureBeat felt similarly when asked what comes next. “FriendFeed will rule,” was his three word answer to the question. How incredible is it that such a young startup has gained Twitter-like metaphor power already?
Already!?! Twitter-like…already?? How incredible is it that Twitter has (in two short years) already gathered such apocryphal status that newer startups should aspire to its holy level??? (Don’t get me wrong Twitter rocks and FriendFeed will rule.)
Marshal also goes on to talk about standardizing and outsourcing API’s. If Websites and services like Facebook and FriendFeed really want to be treated like a platform this is something that needs to be addressed. If API app development is going to be anything other than the Web 2.0 version of shareware then somehow it has to be easy to port an app from one “platform” to another. OpenSocial is one attempt at this solution.
Marshal also had this to say after talking to several API haters:
That said, you won’t likely hear any of those voices blogging here at ReadWriteWeb! We think that today’s crush of APIs and platforms is just the beginning, that we’re at a turning point of innovation. We love it and intend to chronicle the next steps as best we can.
I tend to agree. I think that as API’s enable easier app development we will see an explosion that will dwarf the activity we saw around Facebook last year.