Why REST APIs are eating the world

By Hamish Purdey
Find me on: LinkedIn 06-Nov-2015 17:32:18


“Why software is eating the world” - the famous statement by Marc Andreessen, founder of Netscape, in a Wall Street Journal article in 2011. My view is that this is 100% true – but in 2015 this has evolved to being REST APIs are now eating the world. Very few people truly understand the power these can bring to the way we do business both on and off line. Especially in a true SaaS company where you have enormous data stores, often not connected.

For the uninitiated, REST APIs are a way for computers to communicate with each other in a very simple, easy to use and (mostly) standardised way. In financial technology we have had the family of FIX protocols for many years and these have had the effect of simplifying (to some degree) inter connectivity between trading and clearing systems across multiple asset classes. REST does this for the rest of the world. Yes, the rest of the world.

A vast majority of software vendors nowadays have REST APIs, irrespective of size of the vendor. Integration to it can take as little as a matter of minutes. It’s as simple as making a web call to a server in a specific format sometimes with the authentication token (like a password) as easy as being part of the address that’s being called.

Take your favourite software firm and search for it with the words REST API after it and see how you go. It’s truly different.

So why the big deal. This is changing the way we run and operate companies. It’s making it quick and easy to integrate systems and be truly able to cross function between systems and groups. Take the CRM inside a software company, it can now interrogate an email validation service with one call, insert accounts into the ERP in one call, validate back accounts in one call and insert attendance records from a recent webinar. Among millions of other things.

Take kickbox.io – a very simple concept – validate whether an email address is real – is the domain name correct and valid and then does the user exist at that server. What a fantastic resource to validate data into your CRM and then pro-actively alert your sales or account reps when there are changes in an account. Check out how easy the API is to use - all based around one request which you can type into a browser. And priced at just a cent a lookup – or even cheaper depending on the plan. It’s a key part of our data strategy.

Sources such as programmableweb.com are a daily reminder of the phenomenal resources available to us, many for free, most for incredibly small per use charges. An essential twitter source of information.

This allow companies that practice a best of breed integration approach to flourish. Do what you do well and integrate to others.

So few people I speak to understand the power this brings. Every executive should understand the power of REST as it brings enormous flexibility as to how groups interrelate within the business as well as with customers, suppliers and the wider world.

REST APIs facilitate micro efficiency in software companies which most importantly means you can trust data that’s presented because systems are integrated and reconciled.

It allows you to join the small data, thus enabling big data tools to perform at their best.