I’ve had this article on my computer for three months now, but never got around to finishing it. Finally found some time to put it up.
It’s interesting to see that the standard process of thinking of something new, trying to figure out how to make money from it, creating it and then releasing it to the public seems to have changed. A business model does not necessarily come first anymore. A new process could be described similar to this: have an idea, create a very basic implementation and provide an extensive platform for people to use what you’ve created, hand it over to the community, now find a way to make money or hope for a takeover by some enterprise (Google). This makes new technology much more accessible than it’s ever been. A lot of effort is put into making it easy for other people to use and mashup what’s been created.
Detect and use
Needless to say a skill that’s becoming increasingly useful, is the ability to detect these services and find ways to implement them in your own concepts. YouTube, Twitter and Flickr have all been fully embraced by the community, which means the movies, images and messages they store show up on all kinds of applications. Some with a lot easier business model than the services they’ve incorporated. Twitter clients for instance, have a price tag or use adds to turn a profit, while Twitter is still struggling to find a way to make money.
Reasons to use public API’s
Does that mean Twitter is in trouble? Probably not, what they have is data and a lot of people who use that data. Apparently that’s worth multi million dollar investments. Money they need to provide a reliable system and store data the client applications are generating. Which is awesome, because you don’t have to worry about that anymore. It means you could create fairly extensive applications with a minimal amount of effort, as the services provide you with a solid backend.
Maybe the biggest benefit is popularity and content. It’s easier to use an existing user base than to create your own. Let’s say you want to create a website about the Olympic Games. You want visitors to contribute text, photos and videos. This would require quite a lot of work to create from scratch. Incorporating Twitter, Flickr and YouTube would reduce that dramatically. More importantly however, it would generate a lot more content, as it allows your audience to use the tools they’re already accustomed to.
What you have to take in consideration though, is that you’re not in direct control of the content you’re provided with. This may seem daunting at first and it makes the use of services unsuitable for some applications. It takes a new way of moderating the content you’re provided with. Both YouTube and Flickr allow you to only search through video’s and images that are marked safe. Other than that, it’s always a good idea to think about how you can stay in control of your own application.
Start your own projects
The list of services that are available right now seems endless. Some are more successful than others, obviously. Like I said, popularity is a good measure to determine if a service is worth checking out. To get you started, Programmable Web keeps an incredible list of public API’s. I’ve been spending a lot of time with the Google Apps API’s lately, which are pretty awesome and really allow for some cool applications. Especially if you look further than mashing up some of the individual components. For instance, it’s very easy to use Google Spreadsheet as a cloud database. How neat is that :)? Anyway, have fun!