We’ve all heard of the Home Depot security breach by now. We’ve heard of the Target breach. We’re surrounded by security compromises, and by the ensuing corporate crackdowns after they happen. So it can be very difficult to make the case for open access to any system your enterprise controls. How can you open doors when windows are being broken into?
But the truth of the matter is that the road to financial gain is paved with open access to APIs. As we detail in this issue, companies like Walgreens are turning around the fortunes of portions of their business that were destroyed by smartphones and computers. And this did not happen because Walgreens created an internal API and kept it internal.
Rather, this happened because Walgreens took an internal-facing API and made it externally facing. In doing so, the company expanded the user base of its digital photo printing service by an exponential amount. If the company had kept this API closed and internal only, that growth would be a fraction of what it has been as an open API.
This touches on the central theme of software development as a business enabler in modern society. Amazon has the correct philosophy here, and it’s one that is only just becoming understandable to mainstream business folks. For years, Amazon has not made a profit on its gigantic business. Rather than stashing away cash or giving out a dividend, Amazon has poured its profits into new business infrastructure, such as AWS, streaming video services, and mobile devices. Why? Because Amazon’s philosophy is that it will eventually be the infrastructure that its competitors run on. Rather than simply building an internal architecture for its own developers, it’s been building a company that will, eventually, be used by anyone who wants to start a business.
This is the perfect example of planning with an open future versus planning with a closed future. So when you’re in the boss’ office explaining why you need to make your APIs more accessible to the competition, just remind him or her that there’s more money to be made in sharing than there is in keeping things exclusive.