Building APIs using open-source tools can be a strategic business move that equips you with better tools and strengthens relationships in the industry.
Data can be a powerful tool, but in the end it is only advantageous when actually put to use. The open-source model is one key that helps unlock the potential of your agency’s data, but you still need to understand what it is, as well as why, and how to use it effectively.
There are two ways the open-source model can be integrated with your data. You can use open-source tools to implement data-driven solutions within your company, and then you can make your own data open-source so others have the chance to build something new with it. In both cases, your end goal can be achieved by building an Application Programming Interface (API).
In this article, we’ll explore both options and show you how your agency can make use of an API. Let’s get started!
What does open source really mean?
The open-source model is a decentralized model of software development that encourages open collaboration. It focuses on making a product, code, or other information available to the public with an open-source or free license to use and redistribute it.
This way of thinking can benefit businesses in a number of ways, not least of which is the software it makes available. Open-source software tends to be more secure, customizable, and affordable than other options.
Additionally, communities often spring up around open-source models, which can extend past software to anything distributable like media or information. If you use the open-source model for your own data, you may find that a natural community springs up around your agency. This, in turn, can boost your business’ authority and grow a natural fanbase of dedicated customers for your paid services.
In this article, we’ll talk a lot about open-source data. By this we mean any information related to your agency, which could include from your content, user details, and other media collected behind the scenes. It’s up to you to decide what should be open to the public, and what needs to stay private!
As the number of uses for data grows, it’s becoming more important to offer centralized access to it. In particular, it’s increasingly simple to build desktop, mobile, and web apps, as well as websites, all using the same foundation. This is where APIs come in.
An Application Programming Interface (API) manages access to and handles data regardless of the device it’s viewed on. This means any number of interfaces can all interact with it, so every version stays synced. It’s a useful tool that can have many applications for your business.
Two ways to use the open-source model with your agency’s data
Now we’d like to introduce you to two ways your agency can make use of the open-source model. First, we’ll look at ways you can use open-source software like WordPress to do more with your data. If you need help on that front, you can hire developers on sites like Upwork or Freelancer. Then we’ll discuss how to use that software to offer your own free API to other developers and build a strong community around your agency’s data.
1. Employ open-Source tools to build data-based APIs
WordPress is no longer a simple blogging tool – it’s now capable of offering centralized content and data management. This makes it a “headless” Content Management System (CMS). In other words, you can cut off the so-called head (the front-end interface) and still manage its data using the built-in API.
The WordPress REST API started out as a standalone plugin, but is now built into the core platform. This means you can start building any number of apps or integrations with your site right out of the box! For those with more complex needs, it is easy to add custom end-points for managing additional data. If you’d like to be able to manipulate that data, you can also edit, delete, and add data from your external applications.
By building an API, your agency will have better access to its own data in a format usable for almost any application. Your biggest limitation will be your own creativity in dreaming up ways you can put it to use. For example, you might want to build a native mobile app so clients can log in and view their marketing data. Or your developers could use React Native to build a front-end interface for iOS and Android, which uses the REST API to let them log in and access their most recent numbers.
2. Make your data API available to the public
Once you have an API up and running for your agency, it’s time to consider making it (or at least some of it) available for external use. In other words, you can make your data available to developers by showing them how to access your WordPress’ API.
There are many reasons offering an open API can be an effective business strategy for your agency:
- An API allows developers from anywhere in the world to enhance your product. This adds value and enables features you might never have come up with yourself.
- Sharing your API can lead to profitable partnerships with competitors. When you offer them solutions, they lean on your innovation and will help you reach their own clientele in exchange for access to your API.
- APIs are incredibly scalable. By managing your data in a central place accessible by many, you can all but automate new solutions that reach markets built on top of it.
- Finally, your API will empower new end-users, because developers can extend it in unique ways that suit specific needs. This means nearly-endless targeted solutions can all be created out of the same API.
Once you’ve decided to open your API to the public, the next step is to ensure developers can actually receive access to it. This way, they can dream up their own useful applications (like that dashboard app we used as an example earlier) that further serve your clients.
To do this, you need a publicly-documented API that developers know is available and can clearly see how to interact with. The first step is to have your developers fully document the API so others know how to use it. The second step is to announce it, so people know it is available!
Open source really does make a difference
Building APIs using open-source tools extends the use of your data both internally and externally. This can be a strategic business move, because it equips you with better tools and creates stronger relationships in the industry that propel innovation forward.
To review, you can use open-source to better take advantage of your data by employing open-source tools that allow you to build data-based APIs and making your API available for public use, to allow for innovative applications of your agency’s data.