As APIs Mature, Developers Are Falling in Love with Them All Over Again
Improved, easier-to-use API protocols are revitalizing the traditional IT tool—and inspiring up-and-coming app developers to new heights of innovation.
It turns out the hottest new building blocks for business innovation—application programming interfaces (APIs)—aren't new at all. They've just grown up.
Developers have been using APIs for decades to stitch together internal systems and connect them to external systems. But now, thanks to a wave of new open-source tools, APIs are less complicated, time-consuming and expensive to implement—and are allowing much more accelerated product development cycles.
“API technology has matured to the point where integrations are simple and turnkey for the developer," says Imran Haider, head of product, Open API Channel, at Wells Fargo. For developers, this means more room for experimentation and innovation, and for companies, it means getting to market faster with the next big functionality.
API technology has matured to the point where integrations are simple and turnkey for the developer."
— Imran Haider, head of product, Open API Channel, Wells Fargo
Breaking Down Barriers for New Dev Talent
In a recent article on the next wave of API technology, Haider explains that the “latest generation of plug-and-play APIs abstract out the complexity of the back end," making them easier for large sets of developers to use.
“We're essentially seeing a democratization of integration technologies," says Haider. And once you reach that ease-of-use inflection point, it opens up a world of opportunities for businesses and developers—especially up-and-coming developers.
Chris Thomas, principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP, explains, “When a company revitalizes a legacy system with modern APIs, it encapsulates intellectual property and data contained within that system. That, in turn, makes the information reusable by less experienced developers who might not know how to use it directly, and probably would not want to."
Haider says with new open-source API developer sites likes RESTful JSON, a 24/7 sandbox for testing app functionality, developers can get apps up and running very quickly, “in just days or weeks, depending on their organization's processes and technologies."
For instance, the Wells Fargo Gateway for API Products, which Haider oversees, allows developers to use credentials supplied by the bank to access the developer portal and its user-friendly documentation, which they can easily copy and paste in seconds.
New API platforms are far simpler than the SOAP-based protocols of the recent past, which required developers to study complex documentation before they could even begin to code. Haider says that developers using the Wells Fargo Gateway will find documentation with clear data types and nomenclature—no acronyms or jargon.
“It's meant to be intuitive, so developers can just 'get it' by looking at the API spec," he says.
The Promise of Cloud-Based Connectivity
Another factor in APIs' revitalization is the growing use of the cloud for hosting business platforms, which makes connectivity exponentially easier, according to Haider. As the Internet of Things (IoT) grows, companies are discovering even more opportunities to use APIs to connect with customers across multiple devices.
"Incorporating APIs into new applications allows for easier consumption and reuse across new web, mobile and IoT experience, not to mention the option to expose those APIs externally to enable new business models and partner ecosystems," says Thomas.
That's exactly the kind of innovation Wells Fargo is hoping to inspire in developers through its open API gateway, according to Haider. And they're not the only bank breaking new ground with APIs. Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase are among the other leading financial services providers that now offer similar open gateways for developers.
"Wells Fargo recognizes that our customers want to connect with us through APIs and consume banking through different experiences," says Haider. “We're following our customers' demands and building out different use cases for them. ... [It's] still early in the game, but as more devices connect and share data, it will only create more opportunities for businesses to use APIs to provide value to their customers and partners."