In the last post, I talked briefly about the web in broad strokes - focusing on the fact that content is king. Yet certain forces steered technology in a way that severely limited the reach and effectiveness of content. Due to market momentum, content became isolated in both architecture and representation. Eventually, technology introduced a band-aid in the form of search engines. We find ourselves in this place today - relying heavily on search technology to make effective use of our isolated content.
In a very short amount of time, the internet highways detoured through search engine neighborhoods. The resulting high volume of traffic started to reveal incredible value as people could be tracked and targeted as never before. Eventually, content became a means to an end as data on people started to become highly valued. Identities, relationships, habits, behavior etc. This is an extremely huge topic and it birthed some of my favorite buzzwords like big data and analytics. Rather than diverge into that mess, I’d like to suggest that this new “data on people” business has become one of the biggest drivers in the web’s evolution. This new emphasis on data has incidentally caused content to take a back seat (momentarily). The technology ramifications are huge. Previously, technology was all about building content empires. Now, technology is all about breaking content down, dissecting it, and linking it. All for the sake of more data. In many ways, the motivations have taken a 180 in only a few short years. But that’s just the beginning.
Data started to sell. Entire business models started to appear - all with data as the product. As commerce started to become familiar with the business models, the floodgates opened for all sorts of data to be exchanged. Suddenly, there were business reasons to steer away from the silo model of yesterday:
Today, APIs are a necessary consideration for anyone entering the digital marketplace in any capacity. Advocates continue to aid this by providing insights, education, research, and general API evangelism. One of the most exciting aspects of APIs is the sheer uncertainty of potential. We don’t know what we don’t know, but API-enabled integrations can lead us into knowing what we don’t know. I think that’s the position that spurs the most exciting innovation.
What about the king? I believe content will remain king. However, I think the API economy and the dramatic push for a more distributed, modular, and decoupled architecture will bring the focus back where it belongs. We are getting smarter about how to integrate and otherwise share data and metadata. This can only improve the access to content - both old and new. I can imagine the web becoming a dichotomy. Content-based and API-based. We may see better ways to author content, but the innovation is likely to occur much faster on the data side of things. At least that seems to be what history tells us.
If given the chance, I’ll continue blogging down this road with a deeper dive on the architecture side of things. As a developer, it’s exciting to think ahead and solve real problems with all of these forces in mind.