Programming Languages

This Week in Programming: The End of the API Economy (As We Know It)?

7 Jul 2018 6:00am, by

Now that terrible loud boom nightmare day is finally behind us, for those of us in the U.S. anyway, and we’ve hopefully escaped with all digits and appendages attached (they are rather useful, though not absolutely necessary, for coding after all), we can move on with our lives, leave the outdoors behind, and get back to sitting in the AC and staring at computer screens all day!

(Or go on vacation. Either way.)

While we’d love to keep the mood light and follow the lead of SDTimes — it ran a series of articles this week celebrating the 20th anniversary of “open source” just in time for Independence Day — it was a darker piece over at Programmable Web on a different sort of freedom that really caught our eye.

The freedom we speak of here is not one for you, the developer, to enjoy, but rather the API provider – the freedom to summarily shut down API access with little to no notice, leaving you in the dark. Careful not to overstate its case, the article declares that it’s the end of the API economy as we know it, citing Facebook’s recent and drastic API changes as the final straw — not necessarily to break the camel’s back, but to dispel the lingering illusion of API freedom.

“Although we’re not seeing the death of the API economy, we at ProgrammableWeb are declaring it ‘the end of the API economy as we know it.’ Or, to put it more aptly, ‘The end of the API economy as we often fantasize it to be.’,” they write. “To put it bluntly, we’re not sure how many times this ugly history has to repeat itself before both developers and API providers get the hint: There’s a huge amount of risk that goes with providing and consuming public APIs.”

If those changes at Facebook aren’t enough for you, the article goes on for another thousand words offering numerous examples of companies that built and bet everything on the public API of a bigger company, like Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, only to be ruinously betrayed in the end. Heck, Twitter has done this sort of thing time and again now, just last month buying Smyte only to immediately shut down its API without warning to their existing customers. In the meantime, some people in the tech world still breathlessly profess the upcoming revolution brought to us entirely by platform-dependent chatbots. Certainly, nothing could go wrong there.

As ProgrammableWeb cautions at the end of its article, “should you be considering creating or investing in a company that depends on using or providing an API to do business, you’ll do well to think long and hard about what you’re doing. Given the current state of affairs, an API provider can bring your business to a grinding halt because of an arbitrary whim.”

Well, that was an invigorating and encouraging way to end a week celebrating freedom and independence, now wasn’t it? If nothing else, we can say thank goodness for open source and hope that the future offers better ways to build software that isn’t quite so susceptible to “an arbitrary whim.”

Now, for a little technological eye bleach, as WIRED has an IBM researcher sit down and “explain quantum computing to 5 different people; a child, teen, a college student, a grad student and a professional”:

This Week in Programming

  • The Call for an Open-Source GitHub: Continuing on this week’s theme of open (or not) things, we bring to you the letter entreating Microsoft to please open source GitHub and the ensuing discussion. Some argue that the act would show that Microsoft is, indeed, committed to the open source community, while others offer that Git itself is already open source and the move is unneeded. Others still argue that, with an open-source GitHub, they could finally help implement the features they most want to see, rather than waiting around for someone else to do it.
  • Red Hat Pushes GPLv3: And one last story on the open-source front, this one from ZDNet last week, which looks at how Red Hat is changing its open-source licensing rules. According to the story, RedHat has changed its internal policies to ensure that “all new Red Hat-initiated open-source projects that use the GNU General Public License(GPLv2) or GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL)v2.1 licenses will be expected to supplement the license with GPL version 3 (GPLv3)’s cure commitment language.” And, as ZDNet notes, when it’s a company like Red Hat doing this, it’s a “big deal,” quoting top Linux developers as saying it was done “to work with users in an open and transparent way to eliminate any uncertainty about our expectations regarding compliance or enforcement that might limit adoption of our software.”
  • Beware the Single Line of Code: Ticketmaster announced last week that it had been recently breached (though perhaps it knew of this long before) and the method of intrusion all came down to one little line of code. According to an article by Kevin Beaumont, who writes about “cybersecurity from the trenches of reality,” the offending piece of Javascript embedded a chatbot onto Ticketmaster’s payment page, which allowed hackers to easily access credit card info. “Web developers should be extremely careful what third-party Javascript code is placed within the payment and personal information processes of their sites,” Beaumont writes. “Somebody who works for PCI post-breach assessment told me that over 75% of all web store breaches they assessed at large enterprises happened due to this reason.”  Click through and read on for all of the gory details.
  • Android P Beta 3 Hits the Streets: Now, if you didn’t yet hear, (which would mean you didn’t look at a computer this past week, as it was one of the few pieces of news out there) Google made Android P Beta 3 available this week. Android P is slated to arrive for consumers later this summer and this latest release should closely resemble what we will see then. According to SDTimes, this release “includes the Beta 3 system images for Pixel devices, the Android Emulator, and an update to the Android Studio build that includes D8 as an independent tool” and “developers should have everything needed to test apps or extend them with Android P features like multi-camera support, display cutout, enhanced notifications, ImageDecoder, TextClassifier, and many others.” So, get to testing, already!

Google is a sponsor of The New Stack.

Feature image via Pixabay.


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