Over the last few years, a number of companies have either closed, restricted, or limited their publicly available API programs. On the other hand, we have other companies who have invested heavily in their public APIs, including Betfair and MailChimp
When you think about the purpose of an API, it’s easy to see why some companies have embraced and expanded their API offering, while others are closing them down. That difference comes down to the fundamental product of the business.
In the case of a company like LinkedIn or Twitter, their business is all about “selling Eyeballs”. In essence, their product is the attention of their users. In order to maximise the value of that attention, they need to both capture their customer’s attention and sell it to their advertisers. If they don’t control the front end (be it a web site or native app) then they can’t promise to do either.
On the other hand, companies like MailChimp or Betfair are selling a service. For those companies, their APIs are “distribution channels” for their services. Having those APIs available extends the reach of their services, allows them to reach new markets, and provide their service to people who want customer interfaces in cost effective ways.
So if you’re developing for an API you can determine if your access is likely to be closed or restricted by understanding the business model of the API platform you’re using. If you’re working on an API for eyeballs, you might want to be careful about putting all your eggs in that basket.
So I didn’t think I’d be writing about Microsoft, but the direction they’ve taken with the Xbox intrigues me for a number of reasons. First, it’s clearly an attempt to branch out from “game console” to set-top-box. In other words, there are only so many 12 to 24 year old males in the world and they want to appeal to a broader market. Second, there is a massive market for the “second screen”. I.e., the use of a smartphone or tablet/iPad to comment on a TV show in real time. Clearly, Microsoft has decided that TVs are big enough to devote part of the picture to real time updates.
There are a few reasons why I think they have a tough challenge. First, people are going to be reluctant to throw away their Tivo boxes, etc. Sure, the Xbox has a pass through feature so you could, in theory, use them both, but unless it works really seamlessly (not something Microsoft is known for), then it’s going to be difficult for people to accept it. Second, there will be a massive amount of resistance from the cable box industry because they want to sell much of the same on-demand services that Microsoft will be pushing. Having said that, in my house, we have a MythTV DVR, an AppleTV box, a DVD player, and the TV itself. They’re all islands in terms of the content and interconnectedness so watching something on one means no access to the content on the other. It would be neat to have a single integrated UI for all of my media.
Clearly the next few years will be about traditional computer companies branching out from what we have thought of as “computers” to invading the space traditionally held by consumer electronics companies. We’ve already seen this happen with Apple and now Microsoft. Of course, one has to wonder about Sony. They’ve been doing both for a long time. You’d think they’d be much more ahead than they are.
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything on the old blog. Partly my time has been taken up with family and partly my employer wasn’t keen on people talking publicly without channeling everything through the corporate comms department.
But, since I’ve left them (the employer, not the family) I think it’s time to start expressing my thoughts again. So watch this space!
So the Digital Economy Bill is looking like it’s going to sail through after some heavy duty lobbying. The government and the opposition seem to be in heated agreement that “something must be done!”
But, I wonder if the Digital Economy Bill goes far enough? After all if you download thousands of hours of illegally distributed music and films, your ISP might cut you off. But that merely prevents you from downloading any more.
I say, if the record industry thinks you’re downloaded a significant amount, then they can ask your electricity supplier to turn off your electricity. Then, not only would you not be able to continue downloading, but you won’t get the benefit of enjoying any ill gotten gains you’ve already downloaded!
Surely this makes sense…
Posted in Law, Tech