Why using web APIs is like creating music

Music production downloads as a metaphor for web APIs.

How do you explain web APIs to the business? Here's an analogy not-so-tech-savvy businesspeople could probably relate to: using APIs are like creating music. That's the interesting comparison drawn by Sam Macklin, of CA Technologies and the API Academy.

music-piano-cropped-photo-by-joe-mckendrick.jpg
Photo: Joe McKendrick

Macklin looks at the services available through Ableton's Max for Live, which provides a downloadble collection of instruments, effects, and tools that can be incorporated into a home studio production --creating custom synthesizers, samplers, sequencers, audio effects, and more.

A lot of these electronic components and instruments are expensive, and require talent to play. It boils down to the fact that musical instruments, like just about every other physical device these days, can be offered as software, over networks. Likewise, web APIs offer all aspects of business infrastructure as pieces of software that can be tapped over networks, Macklin explains:

"Just as Max for Live allows users to treat Live as a platform upon which to build unconventional components for specific use cases, an enterprise API empowers creative developers (who might be inside or outside the enterprise itself) to quickly, easily and cost-effectively build valuable new Web and mobile apps that leverage existing technology investments."

Creativity is the secret ingredient that separates the pros from the hobbyists, Macklin adds. Just like handing someone an electric guitar isn't going to turn them into Jimmy Page or Robert Cray. But it opens up new possibilities. Max for Live is a tool that enables music producers to get at instruments to which they may have not previously had access to put together the sounds that deliver beautiful or powerful music. Likewise, web APIs open up back-end or legacy systems that were previously unreachable to provide new worlds of possibilities to extend businesses.

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