A few weekends ago, my Developer girlfriend and I endeavored to create a simple transit app for our Pebble smartwatches. The cool thing was we had MVP by Saturday evening, and we were both rocking bus times on our watchfaces by Monday morning. Could we have continued to use the transit app on our phones? Sure, but we wanted to consume data a specific way, and the API for our local transit made it pretty easy to accomplish.
If you’re planning on hiking a mountain, or choosing to stay in to play video games, you might want to check the weather. (Or maybe even play a video game about weather, no joke) The good news is that you are probably spoiled for choice and there is a specific weather app just for you, just for the purpose you intended. This didn’t happen by accident. There are a lot of great weather apps for sure, but its impossible to please everybody. A multitude of ways to slice and dice weather information and more ways to choose to display it, the reason to display the info a certain way is likely contextual on what a person might be doing with that info. For more in this vein/vane (mild pun intended), check out what the cool kids at forecast.ioare up to.
There are already some well known platforms that are giants in the API arena like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Others are catching up to the importance of this move to embrace open API standards to gain velocity in the mobile space.
I think one of the most interesting examples of crowd-sourced front-end dev is Twitter. Twitter had a service platform which was reaching a critical mass of active users. No sooner was the demand apparent for a mobile front end, did mobile apps (and others) start sprouting like mushrooms designed around the platform. In fact, the official Twitter app for iOS didn’t come from Twitter at all (at least at first). There are still dozens of popular apps completely dedicated to different ways of consuming data one hundred and forty characters at a time.
Being a leader in API openness and development means that more people try and use your platform in new and exciting ways. Check out the results of a hackathon held at APIcon 2014, presented by ProgrammableWeb. Mashups are not just for hackathons either, IFTTT and Zapier are platforms themselves built around connecting other services together.
There are a lot of examples of service and data platforms that can benefit from openness in their API (Transit, Weather, Mapping, Shopping, Music, etc), to bring more users into the the fold by catering to specific needs and niches of the population. More than just a method of making your platform more pervasive, there are undeniable economic advantages.
If you build it, they will come…and build more stuff for you. Instead of trying to cover every usability angle yourself, or please every user, you might be surprised to learn that the community is ready and willing to take the matter into their own hands.