In the past year or so, we have witnessed a major shift from client-server to client-cloud. This shift is primarily fueled by two factors: mobile devices exceeding desktop computers and the thousands of different APIs available on the Internet today. What started in early 2000 on eBay and Amazon has become a real revolution in 2012 with thousands of companies, from Twitter and Facebook to AT&T, offering cloud-based services.
One of the most common ways to access private or public service APIs is via REST requests.
In the client-server approach an organization builds applications that consume its own internal content and resources. However, even large IT organizations such as AT&T, Verizon and Amazon have come to realize that they are no match for the social consumer and social enterprise developers out there. By making APIs publicly available, these organizations hope that developers and “citizen developers” will come and build applications and mobile apps on top of their services.
Citizen developers at work
Analysts at Gartner see a trend toward app creation independent of IT. They predict that by 2014, citizen developers – employees outside of IT and software development – will build 25% of new business applications. In 2007, they built less than 5%.
One of the best-known API success stories comes from Amazon: Its cloud service APIs let outsiders access the company’s massive data centers. Twitter, with its deceptively simple 140-character message model, exploded thanks to its API. In fact, you probably read and write tweets via a Twitter application or mobile app rather than going directly to Twitter’s Web site. Facebook’s Graph API has spawned a whole industry of apps to support its hundreds of millions of users.