Cardboard boxes

APIs are the next generation’s cardboard box.

Give a child a cardboard box, and she’ll make a house, a rocket, a horse, a fort, a car, a cave, an oven, a container, a hat, and eventually a crumpled mess.

Give a developer an API, and she’ll make untold numbers of new forms of the functionality and content you’ve provided.

An API allows others to project their thoughts upon your platform, and realise the version they need to fit their problem. It allows your audience to make the product relevant for them, beyond the scenarios you’d already dreamt up.

Not providing an API (or a poor one) means your users can only use it in the way you deem suitable.

What about all of the people who could think of another use for your platform? Do you not want to talk to them? Why not? Are you really that elitist? Do you really want to ignore the offers of people’s time to help make your product more relevant to more people?

API’s create adaptability, and adaptability creates longevity, allowing something to develop and change over time according to its users needs.

An API doesn’t need to be a webservice either, it could be great customer service, it could be new product development with your community, it could be simply listening to people and reacting quickly.

If you’re not a digital product, how can you create the benefits of an API for your audience? What tools and mechanisms could you put in place to create an API for your brand? How can you create a Product Reimagining Interface?

Footnote:
What’s an API? It stands for ‘Application Programming Interface’. It’s the ‘backdoor’ into someone else’s system or software, a collection of tools and feeds which allows you to use their functionality, in your own product. For instance, you could pull a tweet from twitter and display it on your website using Twitter’s API. You could see how many of your friends have the letter “A” through using the Facebook API. You could send a text message on your phone using an Android API. It allows you to create and extend existing platforms with uses that perhaps are not ‘official’.