be necessary to reclassify Amazon’s industry peer group in time.
The growth of the API economy,
however, is not without its risks. For
several years a battle has been waged
over whether APIs can be copyrighted
or are they exempt and more appropriately subject to the doctrine of
“fair use.” A key attractiveness of APIs
is the ability to copy and repeat the
best bits. 10 Another concern is that
an API provider can abruptly change
pricing terms or even turn off an API
that has become critical input into
services that others have created. The
degree to which these risks represent
speed bumps or something more serious remains to be seen. Meanwhile,
investment in APIs is taking place
across a wide range of sectors and
companies discover new ways APIs
can drive productivity, reduce costs,
and enhance flexibility of their operations and services. As API networks
grow richer and more complex, visual
analytic techniques will provide a
valuable tool for discovering, tracking, and sensemaking of the evolution of API ecosystems and what it
means for different industries and
specific enterprise strategies.
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(June 2015), 6.
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developers. I TPRO (July 1, 2015); http://bit.ly/1MRWuys
4. DuVander, A. Which APIs are handling billions of
requests per day. Programmable Web (May 23, 2015).
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Economy with Visual Analytics; http://bit.ly/1Us6b WU
6. Freeman, L.C. A set of measures of centrality based
on betweenness. Sociometry 40, 1 (Jan. 1977), 35–41.
7. Martin, S. et al. OpenOrd: An open-source toolbox
for large graph layout. In Society of Photo-Optical
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outside developers. Wired (Jan. 8, 2013).
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Peter C. Evans ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is Vice President,
The Center for Global Enterprise.
Rahul C. Basole ( email@example.com) is Associate
Professor, School of Interactive Computing and Director,
Tennenbaum Institute at Georgia Institute of Technology,
Copyright held by authors.
system are companies that have built
businesses around areas such as social, mapping, search, online payment,
image sharing, video, and messaging.
This includes digital platform companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook,
Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Salesforce, and
Twilio, as well as lesser-known companies like Quova, Anedot, and Zapier.
The retail sector provides a fascinating example of these stark differences. 5
Consider the position of Amazon.com
and Walmart in the core API ecosystem (see Figure 2). Amazon.com has
had an explicit policy of creating open
APIs. The results of our visual analysis
support that. Amazon has over 33 open
APIs, which have been combined with
many other APIs to create more than
300 mashups. Walmart, by contrast,
has only one API that has yielded only
one mashup. Considering the centrality scores of Amazon’s APIs compared
to that of Walmart, it is not surprising to observe that Amazon sits near
the core of the API economy whereas
Walmart is more peripheral.
This is not to say that traditionally
brick-and-mortar retailers do not actively use API tools and services to support a range of approaches aimed at
optimizing and personalizing device
and screen experiences. In fact, they
do. Macy’s, for instance, has tapped
Twitter’s Audience Platform to reach
more customers and boost sales. However, the number of open APIs that Macy’s itself has established is very small.
Among this small number, only one
other mashup has been established.
Amazon, by contrast, has a large and
growing number of open APIs. This
is particularly true in the e-commerce
space where there are now 140 mashups built on Amazon APIs. Amazon
is also clearly branching out beyond
e-commerce into areas such as cloud,
enterprise tools, mapping, messaging, networking, and payments. These
areas are generally considered fundamental information infrastructure
services for the emerging Internet of
Things industry. As a result, it may be
important to consider whether it will
Figure 2. API economy visualized: Amazon.com versus Walmart.
Marketplace Amazon SimpleDB
Mechanical Turk Amazon RDS
Amazon DynamoDB Amazon Queue Service
Alexa Web Inform
Messaging Services Source: Peter C. Evans and Rahul C. Basole,
The Center for Global Enterprise, 2015