Fun Times in Telecom APIs

It’s been a fun few weeks in the API space.  Lots of announcements and gossip which we’ve been discussing in the Linkedin Telecom API group.  Oracle and ACME Packet, Oracle and Tekelec, Intel and Aepona, GSMA and OneAPI Exchange, Apigee and API Exchange, Orange closing down some of its APIs, QoS APIs, WebRTC and more…

The latest was Apigee’s follow-up announcement to GSMA’s OneAPI Exchange announcement.  The promise of a common API through “Sign agreements with other operators and the API Exchange and connect to the API Exchange.” What is this? The UN of APIs!  At least Apigee shows it understands the market by not calling it OneAPI Exchange, which only an organization as detached from reality as the GSMA could possible do.

But seriously, Tropo and Twilio, and a raft of new companies on the block show how to make it happen, it’s done. And anyway using your APIs internally and in the mid-tail is much more important than messing around with a group of people that really do not want to work with you in the first place.  The Long Tail cares about 2 things, a large engaged customer base (Apple and Android) and a clear channel to market (App Store and Play). A Telco delivers neither. Focus where you can make money, not where it looks fashionable.

Then backing this opinion up, came a great piece from Layer 7 Technologieson the failure of the exchange model back in the dot com days.  History does have a habit of repeating itself.  The key point being, “The problem with multilateral exchanges is complexity. They require members to buy-in completely and never hedge with alternative paths to consumers; they require the exchanges to always be subservient to the members; and they require 100% participation and 100% consensus.”  Telcos don’t do consensus very well.

I then saw another article on the Layer 7 blog about “Who Owns Developers?“  Since slavery was abolished no one owns developers.  It’s a subtle reference to what Oren from Mashery was doing last week in letting everyone know how big his developer community is, 185k in case you hadn’t heard.

The number of developers for most API Management companies doesn’t matter that much.  API publishers like Voxeo Labs and Twilio’s developers count much more as they live or die by them.  When you review the case studies of non-web companies that implement APIs, their developers are often existing partners or people they can generally access better than an API Management vendor.  Don’t get me wrong, long tail is relevant, but an API Management vendor’s claims on developer numbers I treat with a slight interest, while an API publishers numbers I critically assess.  If you’re interested in Telecom APIs, keep an eye on the Linkedin Telecom API group, its fun.