Seth Goldstein writes:
As of 2005, the Internet has replaced the desktop PC as the primary platform for APIs. Unlike Microsoft and the desktop, however, nobody controls the web as a platform; although certain companies do oversee enormous pools of user data and have the opportunity to direct such traffic as they see fit. The talk of Google and Yahoo! (and now IAC) as web platforms center around their ability to recycle users through complex interconnecting networks of search, email, dating, travel, shopping, local services and more. This is the web version of the gated AOL community circa 1996. Ironically, AOL is now desperately racing to open their proprietary (Rainman) environment to a public web site (AOL.com) before Yahoo! fully eclipses its relevancy.
Virtually all of the major Web 2.0 platforms (GOOG, YHOO, IACI, AMZN, EBAY) recognize how critical it is to engage their users in the act of media production, and therefore are (in different ways) releasing APIs that stream their consumers’ meta data. Such data is not simply theirs for redistributing, but rather needs to be the byproduct of some other functionality such as Amazon wishlists, Flickr tags, or EBay auction trends. Along these lines, the value of a Web Service API is tied to its ability to convert granular feeds of individual data into useful social media contexts. It is not particularly helpful to think of APIs as simply conduits of data, since the way in which APIs package data are frequently as valuable as the data itself. In order to access Flickrs API, for example, you need to choose whether to organize the data by groups, contacts or favorites. Central then to the evaluation of an API is to what extent it performs high level operations on low level data, and how interesting the ensuing abstractions are to a broad community of users.