API Importance

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Martin Geddes writes:

Marc Canter has an unmissable statistic: Did you know that 45% of all of eBay’s listings come in through their APIs?

As you might remember, at Sprint we were trying to open up the wireless side into an open technology and business platform. It failed, mostly for lack of a cultural imperative to drive in that direction.

Ebay’s business comprises two stages: someone lists an item (eBay gets paid for this), and someone buys the item (eBay gets paid for this too). They’ve taken all the friction out of the first half of their business. No human necessary! Only the actual purchase still requires a human click, and it can’t be too long until the shop-bots start to change that too. (Although we’re part-way there already.)

Now think about the traditional telephony business. I have to dial, you may have to answer. Voicemail part-automates the answering, generating more metered minutes. But you have to ask yourself: is it really the best you can do? Is it impossible to broaden the business model – temporary buddies, address book access, directory, etc.? Can’t you deepen it too, and automate previously manual business transactions via APIs?

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