The future of business is Lego

The future of business is Lego

Summary: What should business look like in the hyperconnected future? Just like a children's toy, according to futurist Mark Pesce.


"Businesses have to actively reinvent themselves as APIs," said Mark Pesce — and he means it literally. In a hyperconnected world, businesses must present themselves as services accessible through an application programming interface.

"I mean, every business, everywhere. It doesn't matter whether it's Gerry Harvey, it doesn't matter whether it's Amazon, it doesn't matter whether it's the baker down the street," he said.

Too abstract?

"There's nothing abstract about an API, particularly if I hit an API and I get bread. There's very little abstract about that. It is, perhaps, a bit more electronic, but there's nothing fundamentally different than me walking up to the counter in the baker's shop and saying 'I'll have a loaf of the sourdough and here's five bucks'," Pesce said.

When every business is an API, new businesses can be formed almost instantly by linking together these services.

"The world of business in the 21st century looks a lot more like Lego than it does like Monopoly."

In this week's Patch Monday podcast, Mark Pesce discusses these and other themes from his blog-cum-book The Next Billion Seconds and the follow-up Hyperbusiness, in an interview recorded amongst the start-ups at Sydney co-working space Fishburners.

"Most of these companies are trying to embody the idea of a service offering that's API-accessible, that can be mashed up with other services, or is taking other services and mashing them up to create something interesting," Pesce said.

But the internet-standard business model of paying for services with our privacy, the model that fuels everything from Google to Facebook, may not last.

"In the future that we're heading into, the rich will be able to pay for privacy, the poor ... will be paid to be data-mined ... If you're really, really rich, you won't be able to pay enough money to keep all the eyes off of you, because money attracts attention."

To leave an audio comment on the program, Skype to stilgherrian, or phone Sydney +61 2 8011 3733.

Running time: 1 hour, 9 minutes, 23 seconds.

Topics: Software Development, Security


Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster interested in big-picture internet issues, especially security, cybercrime and hoovering up bulldust.

He studied computing science and linguistics before a wide-ranging media career and a stint at running an IT business. He can write iptables firewall rules, set a rabbit trap, clear a jam in an IBM model 026 card punch and mix a mean whiskey sour.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Not sure what to say, other than . . .

    Not sure what to say, other than saying "everything should be an API" is nuts and I'm not listening to an hour long podcast to write a rebuttal.

    Not everybody is a programmer. Not everybody wants to be. You can't force people to use APIs.
    • I know what to say...

      Did you know Twitter is an API? Facebook? Sure they also have lots of applications and their own website to access that API, but it still exists.

      Not everybody is a programmer, but there's enough of us that we'll make the interface you connect to the API with.

      What do I see the biggest benefit from ubiquitous APIs is? Disability access. I wonder how many blind people use Twitter simply because it has a nice API that programmers could easily write an interface for the vision impaired.
  • Not sure what to say, other than...

    I have nothing constructive to say, so I'm going to say it anyway?


    This is almost slashdot level commenting. All that's missing is "Frist Post!"
  • Old News

    This is old news, see .

    But API's create silos, Facebook silos, Twitter silos, SAP silos, they're old technology that is being replaced by the Semantic Web, RDF, OWL, SPARQL.

    API's are NOT the future.

  • API's are pipes not silos.


    The silos are the databases that are maintained by orgs such as Facebook, twitter and so on. The APIs allow you take the information out of those silos and do interesting things with it.
    • Semantics


      Imagine a self-serve sushi train from which you could immediately select any dish from anywhere in the world; that's the Semantic Web of data (no prior coordination required).

      API's (in read mode) are like waiters that only serve the menu of dishes available at one restaurant (serving from the silo). API's (in write mode) are like kitchen hands that stock that one restaurant (replenishing/creating the silo).

      API's are limiting, unique, costly to build/maintain and use. They are being replaced NOW by Semantic Web technology.
  • Are these semantics just sematics?

    So, when I read about "the semantic web", it feels like I'm just reading about a particular kind of API with added buzzword. 'm not convinced that it's Such A Special Worldview.
  • Is the car just a horseless buggy?

    When good Relational technology arrived in the late 80's (having been good theory for many years by then) it was seen by many as just another file system.

    Is a link on the WWW just an API, kinda-sorta, click it and it gives you something back. Is a link on the Semantic Web just another API, kinda, click it and you get linked data, and can chase additional links to more and more data. An API? Yup, just one that requires no advance cooperation, similar to the WWW, but for data.

    How significant will it be? It will change computing as much as Relational did.

    Is it real? Look at the BBC Olympic site, it's built around Semantic Technology, with some old API's still in use. They're not mutually exclusive.

    Who else is committing to it. The US DoD has stated the Semantic Web technology is the base of their future Business Enterprise Architecture. See here:

    Is it just another API, if you like to view it that way; the link is the API. But what an API, just click it and it works, no programming required. What other API does that?

  • Snap together an ecosystem

    Organizations applying the Lego metaphor to business capabilities will realize more effective partnerships, increased customer interaction, and enhanced user experience. Software architects and developers can take five actions to avoid common API pitfalls, create business value, and monetize API assets:

    1. Embrace the Managed API
    2. Establish a Monetization Model
    3. Make APIs Easy for Developers to Access
    4. Employ Governance
    5. Monitor API Use

    You can learn more about the five steps by visiting my blog post

    and also learning how to re-invent software delivery with API management
  • Abominable misuse of language, blasphemy-- Minfigs unite and exterminate

    And I am not talking about semantics here. I am talking about LEGO, which is my business. The non-word "Lego" (it pains me to even write such an abomination") is NOT a word. It is LEGO. "Lego" or "lego" should never be used in proper company or improper company. And since 90% of all geeks began their career with LEGO in my unscientific but very broad study, you should feel ashamed of yourself for not refering to the noble brick by it's proper name, i.e. LEGO. All caps all the time.
    LEGO is the the source code of most of the source code written today.