10 API Economy Predictions For 2024

10 API Economy Predictions For 2024

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“Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window,” quips API strategist Claire Barrett, quoting author and educator Peter Drucker. We’d all love a crystal ball to tell us what the coming year has in store in the world of technology.

Fortunately, that’s precisely what scores of API developers and tech evangelists have come together to accomplish as part of the APIFutures project, an open forum for discussing cutting-edge thoughts and observations on the API industry organized by Matthew Reinbold.

We’ve gone through all the submissions, more than two dozen at the time of this writing, in search of some of the leading API trends for 2024.

The Future of APIs According to APIFutures

1. Security Will Hinge on Secure API Message Credentials

According to Gary Archer, “most organizations building digital solutions use an API-based architecture since APIs can serve secured data to various clients.” This could result in a major cybersecurity risk, as APIs are one of the most vulnerable parts of a network.

Archer recommends ensuring your API messaging is secure by following best practices, such as:

  • Using the OAuth 2.0 framework
  • Requiring proof-of-possession tokens in B2B clients
  • Using the strongest cookies in browser API clients
  • Adopting attestation in mobile API clients
  • Implementing zero-trust on the backend
  • Adding cryptography-backed user authentication

2. Analyzing Open Ecosystems Will Unlock Value

Most API developers don’t just produce or consume individual APIs. At the very least, many APIs use existing third-party resources, like an authorization workflow or payment API. These hybrid systems are known as ecosystems and can put your network at risk. They can also be a source of tremendous growth.

Open ecosystems can also be an invaluable source of business and marketing data. Analyzing existing open ecosystems can give you ideas on new features to add to your API and even populate your list of leads.

3. AI Will Play An Important Role In The Future of APIs

In his article What Is The Meaning of This, David Biesack breaks down the interaction between AI and APIs into three categories. There are APIs generated by AI assistants. There’s code for consuming APIs produced by AI assistants. Then, there are AI systems that directly interact with APIs.

The nature of large language models (LLMs) requires quality data to ensure proper training. This means semantics, according to Biesack, preferably delivered in the OpenAPI format. Better prompts are also needed for AI and APIs to interact successfully. Therefore, he expects API engineer prompts to emerge as a proper discipline this year. Finally, semantics will be integral to creating quality feedback loops for training AI and verifying its output. Project Moonwalk is aiming to add semantics to OpenAPI v4 in 2024.

AI will be an important component of self-governing APIs, as well, according to David Roldan Martinez. “AI is playing a key role in the development of self-governing APIs, which are APIs that can automate many of the tasks that are typically handled by humans.” This doesn’t come without its share of challenges, though.

Self-governing APIs require access to large quantities of data, for one thing. Once it’s set up, though, self-governing APIs will be far more secure, as everything from data validation to rate limiting and access control can be handled by the AI.

4. Only Well-Designed APIs Have a Future

“Poorly described APIs will struggle for adoption on all fronts,” says developer, engineer, and entrepreneur Keith Casey. “Your docs are going to fall further behind, your SDKs will never fit quite right, your integrations will be fragile, and your Marketing and Sales team will always have an uphill battle. A cool website won’t save you. Another SDK won’t save you. A great devrel team will only delay the inevitable.”

He continues, “Alternatively, the APIs that are well-documented in clear, consistent ways are going to be embedded in more places faster than ever before. When someone goes to ChatGPT – or Copilot or Bard or Grok – and says ‘build an app that..’ it will use tools it can discover, understand, and accomplish those goals.”

For a well-designed API, Jose Haro Peralta recommends formulating a clear idea of how the API must work, having a formal API specification, and validating the server implementation against the API specification. Following these protocols will help ensure your API delivers what it promises, increasing value for users and investors.

5. The Future Of APIs Will Be Psychological

APIs have become a product in their own right. They should be treated like any other product or service you’d develop. That means understanding your audience, having a firm grip on your unique value proposition (UVP), and a handle on the current API marketplace.

One of the top API trends of 2024 is API adoption. The economy’s experiencing a squeeze, making users more anxious about every expense. Once you understand what need your API fills, focus on showcasing your API’s value as much as possible.

6. API Management Will Become Increasingly Important

With potential investors being more wary about expenditures, many 2024 API trends might not look that flashy or exciting. As Emma Kriskinans puts it, “if you want to go far in business, work on something which may seem boring to most, but which they actually depend on.” There’s going to be a focus on delivering provable returns. This means a greater focus on API management, which has already been trending upward for several years.

According to Jing Yan of API7.ai, the top API management trends of 2024 are:

  1. APIs are for everyone
  2. API management solutions are recognized by more enterprises
  3. More collaboration of API management and generative AI
  4. Modern, low-footprint API gateways are needed
  5. The importance of API documentation is highlighted
  6. Further focus on API monetization
  7. Enhancement of API monitoring and observability
  8. Elevating API security to safeguard the cyber landscape

7. Beginners Will Play An Important Role In The Future of APIs

It’s popular advice for educators to explain something like they’re talking to a 5-year-old. Breaking down complex ideas into simple terms helps give greater clarity to teachers and audiences alike. Beginners will play an important role in the future of APIs, according to Taylor Barnett-Torabi. When creating and documenting your APIs and documentation, you should imagine that your end user is new to APIs. At worst, it makes it much easier for API experts to use your product. At best, it can help build and grow your API’s audience.

8. User and Developer Experience Will Become Increasingly Important

“One trend to watch for in the future of APIs is a more intense focus on the customer experience,” says Clarence W. Cromwell. “A customer-first approach is the antidote for a majority of the issues (present and maybe also future) that API developers and users struggle with.” Completeness, navigability, effectiveness, and design are key traits that improve user experience for API documentation, he adds.

Developer experience will also be an essential API trend in 2024. According to Joyce Lin of Postman, as told to Erik Wilde, “People are finally beyond the initial API reference and having API documentation and thinking about what’s next — actually measuring and optimizing onboarding for developer experience and developer collaboration.”

9. APIs Will Become Increasingly Efficient

API architect James Higginbotham anticipates a larger shift in IT back toward business fundamentals. “Things are shifting back to the business. No more expansive rewrites and modernization. We had years to get that done. Time to deliver value to business and customers. APIs are at the center of this, but it will require a leaner API program,” says Higginbotham. To make your APIs as efficient as possible, reuse your APIs as often as possible.

10. APIs as a Product Will Continue To Rise

In the final three months of 2023, API Changelog analyzed 235 articles on the API industry for their newsletters. They reported on over $800 million in API-related funding, including increased expenditure from massive Fortune 500 companies like Amazon, Apple, and General Motors. “It’s products and companies like these that make us believe API productization will be a growing theme during 2024. Using APIs as standalone products or as a distribution channel for new and existing products — even physical ones — is something you’ll see more often.”

Final Thoughts on The Future of APIs

Unfortunately, none of us have a crystal ball. Talking to some of the leading minds in the API industry is the next best thing. We do not doubt that many of these predictions will come to pass. Although, there will likely be plenty of unexpected twists and turns this year, too. In the meantime, reading through the extensive knowledge base of API Futures will help you to be prepared, no matter what happens.