There Should Be An App For That
Apps and websites (and features) are becoming single function, best-of-breed experiences.
And in the future (and the present) customers want to knit them back together into a mix-up of their own creation.
Services like Zapier (http://zapier.com) and IFTTT (http://IFTTT.com) are just the start. These services enable a kind of personal operating system where you identify the “channels” (where stuff happens, e.g. Twitter, Salesforce, Facebook – there are hundreds), the “triggers” (what causes this to happen, e.g. receiving an email, creating a calendar item, or posting a tweet), and the “actions” (what data is transferred or referenced in another channel, e.g. When I post on Instagram, also post it for me on Flickr; or make a calendar appointment for me automatically when I get this type of email.)
The future belongs to startups that help you make “Data Glue” and “Personal API” management, sticking together all of your best of breed digital exhaust and interactions and photos and stuff into one coherent management view. Yeah, yeah, I know – you keep all of your stuff in Facebook or on Twitter or on Google. But do you? Do you really know where all of your online stuff lives?
Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends presentation is a must read.
What is there was a personal API where you could see all of your stuff?
Today you share a lot of information online. And you don’t have a good place to review all of that data, understand how it’s shared, and stop sharing it when you want. We need an API of Me that gives you one place to know what you’re doing and sharing online. You might argue that this is dangerous to connect all of the streams of information and to put management controls in one place. I might argue that it’s potentially dangerous to not know all of the information that’s being shared and connected to you with and without your knowledge.
A personal API could bridge this gap by giving you better control over the information you choose to share and understanding where it’s shared. There are some technical hurdles to making this happen and a start might be: allow consumers to create their own chunks of information that are connected with an API using oAuth to publishers. It’s the same way a company might broker and share this sort of information, only you would be brokering the information and using it as a “pass-through” for the information you currently share on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other services.
There would need to be a minimum amount information that would be always be shareable and discoverable – for example, you might use as your key the username that you share on those networks (your Twitter handle, LinkedIn ID, etc). As a start you might simply provide extended information to those services. If this is a valuable service to share highly targeted information, then those services might start using you as an API provider.
What if there was a way to package up that data and sell it to people who wanted your stuff and to get payment?
In a world where you had better control over your personal data, you might choose to give it away freely or sell that information. Today there is a Creative Commons license that allows you to give away content easily and it’s much harder to centralize the way that you sell data, mostly because you are often operating under the auspices of other organizations when you create that information. Who owns a Tweet? Who owns a Facebook post? Who owns the digital exhaust of an interaction that you create when you move from place to place?
The future will include:
– tightly controlled views of uncontrolled data
– custom bundles of seemingly random information that have value when aggregated
– individual micro payments for actions online and offline
Would you use an “API of Me”?