United Airlines and Uber have come together to announce that Uber’s car sharing service will now be available straight from United’s app. This is a perfect example of a win-win agreement—the airline adds a complementary service, the car sharing company reaches a new audience, and the customer gets to skip taxi lines and save time. Uber has also announced that it will work with Hyatt, TripAdvisor, and OpenTable, the restaurant reservation booking service.
A few years back, such an initiative would have required a heavy dose of coordination between Uber and its new partners. Today, web APIs allow mobile and web application developers to easily onboard a partner company’s service. These APIs combine a highly differentiated service with a standardized interface, making them very valuable from a business perspective, yet easy to consume on the technical side. If a company wants to expose an open API, they just have to define the business conditions. Is the service white-labeled or is the brand represented? Is the service monetized in a different way when consumed via this new partner channel? Once these parameters are defined, it only takes a little bit of time with the partner’s developer before companies can start getting benefits like increased revenue and reach.
Many successful startups were founded with open APIs at the core of their business, with a strong backend ready to help them scale and extend their service. However, this doesn’t mean other companies can’t seize the same open API opportunities. Any company with API management solutions can take its services, make them easy to consume, and monetize them. To leverage these opportunities, they need a platform that addresses these four pillars:
- Integration, to connect to their core business service and whatever technologies it was built with.
- Protection, to secure and protect systems that were not designed to handle the volume of data required by web and mobile apps. This includes applying security, but also caching requests, to provide a great end user experience.
- Flexibility, to manage the definition of business agreements as policies so they can be immediately implemented or adapted. Such policies can be defined in the onboarding process of new partners, or in the quality of services granted to various partners.
- Visibility, to measure usage, audience, and segmentation, and to help manage the new API product.
An organization can support its API initiative with these four pillars. Companies will benefit from a broader reach of their services, via partners of course, because their services can be consumed any time, anywhere, and in any way. Web and mobile applications are the current touchpoints with consumers, but open APIs allow complete integration with connected devices and social networks as well. This is not the future, this is today. A startup called Stripe is said to be negotiating with Twitter to allow businesses to propose a “Buy” button in tweets with regards to the services they offer.
So when you’re taking your Uber ride from the airport, just check your Twitter timeline. There might be a suggestion for a great new food delivery service that will give you just what you need: a nice comforting dinner at home after a long trip away.