Platforms... Get your Web APIs in Order

When platforms fail to keep up with web API standards, everyone gets hurt.

Platforms... Get your Web APIs in Order
Photo by AltumCode / Unsplash

What is it about platforms and APIs? Everyone has one, but few maintain them in a way to keep them up to speed with evolving API standards and use cases. Some use the SOAP standard, some use REST, some use XML-RPC, some use JSON-RPC. The biggest gripe I have is that platforms that built APIs fairly early on did so and SOAP and then never put any effort into moving them to being REST based when the world moved on.

While I certainly understand that SOAP was one of the first truly mature API standards that platform developers could rely upon, it has many issues regarding being light-weight and flexible. In a world where the goal is to be agile when implementing web services, with minimal overhead, SOAP no longer fits the bill for many use cases. I understand there are some use cases where complete control over data structure and security is paramount, so SOAP is still advantageous, but those scenarios are few and far between. With advances in REST API security, there are fewer of these scenarios every day.

This leads me to my overarching issue: platforms, especially those in niche markets with fairly isolated client bases have been slow to move off of older standards like SOAP and move to REST. This hurts their clients as they look to integrate to more modern web platforms, and also hurts their clients when they need to source developer talent. Tell a recently minted software developer that they are going to need to work with a SOAP API and at best you are going to get a groan, at worst, you are going to get "since when do I need to use SOAP on my API? Is it dirty?" Failing to keep up with web service standards, and technology standards in general, will ultimately drive your platform to irrelevance if modernization is not a key strategic priority. Gone are the days when we were able to simply talk about modernizing mainframe platforms, now we are talking about modernizing platforms built in the web 1.0 and 2.0 era as well.

So please platform developers in smaller or niche industries, I implore you, make modernizing API access to your products a priority. Your clients will love you for it, and you won't face the prospect of being passed over for a competitor that has done more in this regard. Being an "open platform" is no longer something that is coming, it is already here. If you aren't an open platform yet using modern connectivity standards, you are already on the verge of irrelevancy.