October 11, 2005 SDF Leveraging Web APIs

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New Business Opportunities: Leveraging Web APIs
By DJ Cline

On Tuesday October 11, 2005 at the Emerging Technology SIG hosted a panel to talk about new business opportunities leveraging web APIs. Scott Irwin from El Dorado Ventures moderated the panel of heavy hitters in front of a jam-packed crowd. It consisted of Adam Trachtenberg of E-Bay, Chris DiBona of Google APIs, Jeff Barr of Amazon Web Services, Robert Goldberg of IdeaLab, Toni Schneider of Yahoo APIs, John Rodkin, CEO of F2 (a new startup using web APIs).

For the past three years, more companies like Amazon, E-Bay, Google and Yahoo are offering web services APIs with more features and functionality to independent developers. The panel talked about their strategies for encouraging new startups like IdeaLab that are recognizing and changing the industry’s infrastructure.

E-Bay believes their acquisitions of PayPal and Skype complement each other and create a space for innovation. They supply over a hundred web APIs free, with over 20 percent of them generated by third parties.

Google thinks the trend is to recreate the desktop experience using the web by creating a simple baseline of code and making it widely available. Their success with Google Maps is in an example of third party developers taking a simple API and adapting it to their own uses, like finding restaurants or apartments.

Amazon talked about ECS, Alexa Web information Service (AWIS) and Simple Queue Service (SQS). They believe their demos can show developers how to build their own stores in hours.

Yahoo offers outbound and inbound openness for developers. Outbound is for APIs and web development for user groups and news. Inbound is for publishing into the Yahoo network, using RSS feeds to push content into the network. The result has been the success of Flickr for photos and the promise of Confabulator for pulling data and displays outside of browser.

IdeaLab has worked with Yahoo to collect data from the commons and create APIs to search, find and act on the that data.

There was a general agreement that more standards are needed and that each API requires unique wrappers for each environment. XML is the becoming the one standard they could all agree upon. To encourage user trust, data should be portable and not proprietary. You should be able to take it with you. As for tools, Greasemonkey was agreed to have the greatest potential. Finally, for making money, ads are the proven way to go. Riskier strategies mentioned were vertical selling like movie tickets, finding ways to drive traffic, scraping sites, or writing tailored scripts for niche markets.

DJ Cline
Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.