Even though the “godfathers” of programming—Maurice Wilkes, David Wheeler, and Stanley Gill—introduced APIs in the late ’40s, and Salesforce, Facebook, Google, and others also began making feature-rich
APIs available to third parties in the mid-’00s. Still, code-first development has long been the norm. But, the API-first approach started gaining popularity recently around 2016—it was the time when
API Economy also caught Gartner’s attention.
In the code-first model, you write code first to build complete applications, including the user interfaces. Next, you create APIs as a “tactical” way to connect your app to other software applications.
With an API-first approach, you develop APIs as a “product” along with the documents for humans and machines to use. Then you figure out user interfaces and other details. Businesses like AWS, Azure, Stripe, Okta, and Plaid are built on the API-first model.
In reality, API-first isn’t just a way to build software. It’s also a business strategy that opens new opportunities that weren’t possible before. You create the most value with APIs early in the development process and then use them to create other interfaces
and integration options. You can combine API-first with microservices to get the most out of it. Microservices are small, lightweight applications that work together as a service to provide value to end users.
This method shortens the time to get a product to market because development teams can work on it at the same time. It also reduces the risk of failure because there are fewer dependencies, and it makes the developers’ lives easier. Decoupling gives you
more freedom when choosing a tech stack and enables you to change functionality with the least effort. Adding new features or making a new app takes much less time and money than it used to, which encourages innovative ideas and experimentation.
Adopting API-first requires a change in the organization’s way of thinking, product development practices, and staffing needs. Also, an extensive governance framework is needed to ensure that API contracts, versioning policies, and security standards are
followed. But none of this is possible without firm support from the top. So, this strategy needs a clear directive from the executive management with a long-term commitment.
Last, when the API-first strategy is used with microservices, it allows organizations to become platforms and create more value for the entire ecosystem. But, as the saying goes, “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” which means it costs a significant
upfront investment. Therefore, a concrete plan is needed to get the most out of it.
- Sandoval, K. (2018) Who Invented the API? | Nordic APIs |, Nordic APIs. Available at:
https://nordicapis.com/who-invented-the-api/ (Accessed: 17 September 2022).
- Welcome To The API Economy (no date) Gartner. Available at:
https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/welcome-to-the-api-economy (Accessed: 17 September 2022).