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SAN FRANCISCO — Funding deals and acquisitions of companies that manage application programming interfaces have given the tech press proof that APIs are not only proliferating but are quickly becoming the go-to tunnels for pushing and pulling information to and from thousands of cloud-based services that would otherwise be isolated.

API gurus appearing at VentureBeat’s CloudBeat 2013 conference today agreed that these will become the definitive means for data movement within the next decade. Over time, as companies realize that calling APIs to get the latest data from different sources, these will no longer need to be questioned or scrutinized. “It will be part of the plumbing, and we won’t talk about it anymore, because it will be obvious,” said John Wolpert, the leader of API marketplace enablement at IBM.

For now, more and more companies have been issuing APIs. But as time goes by, and large companies get more comfortable with exposing APIs, they might well have to deal with the burden of revising it while not disturbing partners who rely heavily on those APIs. “I know if AT&T made a change to an API that we gave you, [and] enterprise customers lost money because we made a change to the API, they would ask for their money back,” said Laura Merling, the VP of ecosystems and solutions for AT&T. It’s a matter of evolving API etiquette, she said.

Other questions will come up as more large players embrace the API way. The matter of standardization is a possible one.


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Steven Willmott, the chief executive of 3scale, said that even if larger vendors — say, public- and private-cloud providers — agree on some API standards, smaller players might well avoid them and find competitive advantages. And that means enforcing standards across the board might not even be possible.

A more important question might center on copyright. If companies were to decide to impose copyright restrictions on the use of data moving through APIs, “a lot of very, very bad stuff will happen,” Willmott said. For instance, it could inhibit the growth of the API economy. For now, though, this isn’t an issue.

These subjects might not be at the forefront of cloud dialogue yet, but they ought to be expected, given that the the number of APIs could be in the millions in the next five years. So consider yourself warned.

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