July 7, 2021
8 min read

Why are APIs so important?

Brad Drysdale

APIs have long been the programmer’s tool of choice for inter-application communication. Built by programmers, for programmers. Giving each other an interface and a means by which to call each other's code. As for documentation and ease of use, well….

So why are APIs so important?

All of the below examples are organizations and industries who are using APIs to modernize legacy, liberate data, deliver new capabilities faster and ultimately innovate faster as a result. As more and more of these enterprises become data-soaked and engineering-led, the focus will be on the automation of business processes and improving customer experience.

This number of APIs empowering all this will explode and the requirement to automate the stitching together of the enterprise to deliver new innovations falls squarely on the shoulders of Kong.

There's more excitement around the potential of the humble API ahead of us than what's already behind us. Customers embracing APIs, data, AI and broad automation will find themselves starting to become a bionic business.

Strap yourself in, this could be one hell of a (API-led) rocket ride.

APIs Continue to Evolve

More recently APIs have put on their business attire and become boardroom discussions. APIs are now really well defined "products" which represent core capabilities and access to data across the enterprise.

They are well documented, easy to discover and consume, and sufficiently abstracted away from the underlying service implementation to be practical and resilient to underlying change. They became fungible and business relevant. Organizations are now using these APIs to modernize access to legacy systems and break down monolithic applications into smaller, easier to manage, easier to scale components.

APIs are the corporate "lego bricks" which can be assembled and reassembled at pace and at scale to compose new applications much faster than they ever could before.

Living up to the promise of abstraction and simplification, modern APIs provide a fantastic means to put a beautiful front door on what is likely to be a not-so-tidy room in the house. The beautiful simplicity of a modern APIs design does a wonderful job of sharing it's worth to the business, in the language of the business, in a way that is relevant to the business, all whilst keeping the complexity of its service implementation hidden and protected.

The App Store Approach

APIs have done their job well so far and continue to do so. Companies are building thriving internal developer communities around the APIs they define, design, implement and catalog. This "App Store" approach to discovery-led consumption has businesses moving faster by assuming the right APIs exist, looking for them in the "app store" (developer portal), picking the one which best suits their needs (by whatever metric that is measured) and self-servicing upon it.

Done well, the business is able to move at a far more rapid pace than ever before, by allowing business and domain owners to discover, re-use and rapidly compose new digital products and capabilities, perhaps leveraging modern low or no-code tools, much faster than they ever could before, without much or any involvement from IT. Talk about freedom from friction.

Some companies (I'm looking at you Google Maps, Twilio, Stripe, and others) built their whole business around one API. There are lots of examples of companies who do something, and do it so well that exposing their business as-a-platform makes them as programmable as any other API would be.

This active participation in the broader API economy is allowing two things to occur; capturing new business opportunities through API-led routes to market, and monetizing the ability of others to improve their digital experiences for their customers by leveraging these platform businesses and their APIs.

Industries Embrace APIs

When you look at how APIs are being embraced around the globe, across all industries, as a means by which to capture and embrace digital opportunities, deliver more value to customers and either disrupt traditional business models or invent completely new ones, it's no wonder Kong is experiencing fantastic success.


As a reasonably nascent industry disruptor, adopts this exact model in order to capture market share faster than traditional business, with traditional non-API business models could ever hope to embrace. There's a whole, very successful business model around this now starting to emerge even in stalwart industries, such as Government.

APIs, AI and healthcare

One of the richest seams of value in the technology space has to be autonomous, AI-led healthcare. This is the next big frontier.

APIs already play a key role in connecting patients with doctors, patients with their smart watches or their cochlear implant or their bionic limb, allowing private, but important data to flow to the right places in order to provide the right care and assistance. Securely, and with trust. Prediction is a big area of medical research.

Using all those devices, all that data, all those APIs working together to constantly measure and assess your very well being and predict a health crisis before it arises. The Apple Watch today can already predict some degenerative conditions simply by measuring your gait, your heart rate and your blood oxygen levels. In the hospital itself, robots are assisting with complex surgical procedures, and I don't think we are too far away from the days where AI-led robotic surgeons take the lead in the operating theatre.

They've learnt everything from the doctors and surgeons already, they can ingest more data than any human could ever hope to process. They don't make mistakes, they don't have bad days or get tired and they don't have to ever clock off. Perhaps the APIs in your car which detected you nodding off, causing the car to safely pull over and send an alert for medical assistance will put the APIs controlling the robotic surgeons out of business. What a beautiful outcome.

On a more personal note, I know they use APIs to capture data, share data and provide a program of care for people looking to start a family. I know APIs already play a key role in the care provided before (and during) pregnancy, birth and the first few hours and days of a baby's life on Earth. I've witnessed it. AI-assisted, data-led, hands-on healthcare at the birth of new life? Simply; wow.

Modern, Scalable APIs

Kong helps make all of this possible, in a modern, scalable and fully automated fashion. Kong is what gets customers excited about the value APIs can bring. Helping the modern enterprise adapt and scale in the face of unprecedented digital disruption and increasing customer expectations.

We are all customers of someone, and we all expect a seamless, personalized, digital experience which we can carry in our pockets and interact with in the palms of our hands. The world has changed in this regard and life as we knew it will never be the same.

Yet the real excitement around APIs still lies ahead of us. APIs will continue to add richness, personalization and value to digital experiences, improving both your workflow and your lifestyle, I'm sure of it. With everything connected, there's limitless amounts of data to be captured and used to fuel these experiences.

APIs are now very quickly changing the way we live and work, disrupting quite well-established ways of doing many everyday things. The excitement lies in this and the forward-looking opportunities it affords.

Real Life Examples of APIs

APIs power how you book a flight for your next business trip or well-deserved holiday. Which flights to take, how you select a seat, what meal you choose, the car you're going to rent when you reach your destination and the hotel or resort you'll be enjoying your downtime at:

  • Hotel check-in; API.
  • Keyless room entry; API.
  • Room charged for that minibar item you crack open; API.
  • Heating, cooling, movie to watch, requesting more towels or a shirt pressing service; all APIs.
  • Even the checking out experience can, and often is, touchless. Involving no humans other than yourself.

Your holiday, your preferences, your experience. APIs power it all.

APIs are allowing Tesla to deliver on the promise of driverless vehicles. The way you can use your phone to unlock your Tesla and summon it out of a tight park is all API-led. Without APIs, you'd still be having to de-ice your windscreen manually before getting in the car, rather than tapping a button on your phone whilst you brew a coffee to ensure the car is warm and safe to drive when you are.

The driverless capability leverages cameras, sensors, data, a lot of real-time processing capability and APIs to bring to life. The concept of autonomous vehicles extends far beyond cars, to drones, unmanned FarmTech machinery, underwater discovery vehicles discovering life at depths never before possible, to military and government applications.

APIs are putting rockets into space. SpaceX relies on thousands of them to detect, measure, adjust and control every aspect of a rocket launch. Everything from the blast off to the safe return of a reusable module relies on measuring, capturing data, and using all of it to control what the rocket needs to do in order to leave earth, holiday on Mars and eventually return safe and sound.

APIs are playing a key role in allowing organizations like SpaceX and NASA to get to Mars, explore Mars, and return from Mars. Perhaps one day even help us colonize Mars, who knows!

APIs in the Pandemic

The APIs powering many applications and capabilities on your phone helped the world navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Many countries developed apps to show you virus hotspots, allow you to check-in/out of locations for track and tracing purposes, apps and websites which gave you the most up to date view on the covid situation, as well as more recently, vaccinations statistics.

I can only imagine the role APIs had in accelerating the research and production of the various vaccines now helping us hopefully rid the world of this virus. A pandemic hits and the world turns to APIs as a key component in helping us deal with the situation.

It could very well be APIs which help predict the next pandemic a little ahead of time, and prepare the world to react far better. It will definitely be APIs bringing together systems, data and bright people to develop future vaccine and control measures.

The Next Industrial Revolution

There's no doubt that data-rich, intelligent and automated digitization truly is the tipping point from the 4th industrial revolution to the 5th, and it's APIs which empower and fuel it. From connected applications to connected companies, connected hospitals, connected governments. All the way to connected cities and fully interconnected communities. Digitization is changing life for all of us in a very dramatic way.

So back to us, and Kong. If you didn't think our work around API management was meaningful enough already, then just look at how we're changing the nature of work, or how we're helping deal with current pandemics and trying to prevent the next one.

Perhaps how we're helping research organizations and human pioneers explore this great Earth, from the deepest depths of the oceans all the way to far-flung extents of outer space. Maybe it's just enough to see how APIs and Kong are helping create, shape and improve lives as well as mend broken bones and broken hearts.