API-Days conference: Paris takes the lead in the API Economy

Dec 6, 2013
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Over the last two days, I had the pleasure of attending the very interesting and well ran API days conference in Paris. The conference was ran by the teams at Webshell and Fabernovel.

As the API economy is growing, it is great to see that the Paris techies are trying to be thought leaders rather than mere technology adopters.  And thankfully, the conference went beyond technical and into the business implications of developing, selling, and consuming API.

Make no mistake, as Mehdi Medjaoui smartly outlined in his presentation, an API is much more than just a piece of code.  It is a community, it is a service, and it is a business.

So what is coming up in the API economy ?  Here are some of my main take-away from the conference:

+ API designers need to remember that an API will always be under unpredictable workloads and deliver key functionalities to other people’s software. Building for robustness and scale is not just a need but more so a requirement.

+ As technologists, we don’t necessarily like to document and test our work yet, in the API economy we need to put the API consumer (our customer) in a position to succeed.  Whenever the talks turn towards documentation and ease-of-use, Twilio comes up in the conversation as an example to follow.

+ Gamification could be used to increase a company’s API adoption.

+ A great presentation on Web RTC covered whether the technology was hype or disruption.  Congratulations to the speakers who, despite working at a company whose business revolves around Web RTC, were smart enough to showcase and highlight the technology’s limitations and danger zones.  Web RTC could definitely change the way we communicate over the web so we will definitely cover it in more detail in a forthcoming article.

+ It seems that there is a new trend when large companies present at conferences.  They are now trying to be more honest about where and why certain initiatives failed.  Laurent Benveniste from Orange took that route when he explained the company’s road towards building an API factory.  Laurent was able to highlight why Orange’s preview efforts felt short and how, under the leadership of Stéphane Richard, the company is positioning itself to be a major API provider in the Telco industry.  It is quite reassuring to hear that Orange is going to focus on the Telco field rather than try to go head-to-head against some of the bigger players.

If Orange is able to deliver on its promise to treat developers as customers, as well as relying on known standards to empower technologists to leverage their API, the company could make a radical and decisive turn in operations.

+ A lot of kudos to Romain Huet from Twitter for his talk…well especially the end of the talk when he went ahead and controlled a drone by sending tweets, this was a lot of fun to see!  In a bigger scheme of things, it also showcased the rise of connected devices and how API’s are merely building bridges between different devices.

+ Steve Klabnik had a thought provoking talk on Json API and using convention driven API design. Jsonapi.org is trying to incite developers to standardize on a set of conventions.  Whether these conventions are the right ones will likely be debated for a while though Steve’s approach is the right one and I hope that more and more developers follow his lead when using json api’s.

+ Fun factoid that may only interest me:  Google and Facebook each receive over 5 Billion API calls each day.  This is mind boggling!

Finally, congratulations to the 5 companies who won the API contest:

Years ago, a CEO told his team that they had to use a service-based approach to deliver on the company’s business model. There would be no exception and people had no option but to comply.  The company was Amazon.
As more and more companies make the switch towards API and open their API many challenges are sure to arise, however, the business and technological opportunities are such that most businesses would be well versed to follow the same approach as Bezos’ did for his company.