Oct 11, 2019 newsletter

API renaissance gains momentum with Kong’s acquisition of API debugging tool

Software development is in the midst of an API renaissance. Kong’s acquisition of Insomnia, a popular open source API debugging tool, highlights the growing importance of the API development stack in modern engineering workflows and the massive opportunities created by microservices-first architecture.

Microservices-first architecture created a massive developer value seam—a hole in existing development stacks that provides opportunity for innovation. As microservices proliferate, the need for powerful API development tools to connect them grows and the value seam widens.

Any major shift in software development philosophy—like the spread of microservices—rips open these developer value seams.

User growth metrics illustrate the magnitude of today’s shift. More than 400,000 developers use the Insomnia platform to test and analyze APIs. Postman, a related tool for full life cycle API development, boasts nearly 8 million developers on its platform.

Kong needs Insomnia to capitalize on the widening API value seam.

While historically focused on its runtime technology—an API layer that runs in front of APIs to provide additional services and functionality—to help developers, Kong is working to consolidate more of the API development life cycle into a single platform.

API-first and microservices-first development point to a bigger trend: the micronization of software. Rather than inextricably welding together all parts of an app, developers weave together modular code, services, and functionality. These tools operate according to different timelines, release schedules, and objectives.

As software development micronizes, you need more development glue to hold everything together.

APIs are just the beginning of a new wave of innovation unlocking the value in development glue. Other forms of glue—like package registries, cloud extensions, and containers—are seeing rapid growth, too. Each is a new opportunity for developers to exploit value seams opened by micronized software development.


Blacklisting AI companies and the fragmentation of the global software supply chain

Bound by trade restrictions and political maneuvering, software development is becoming increasingly regionalized. The blacklisting of two Chinese AI technology companies reveals that the global software supply chain risks being fractured along political fault lines.

New US sanctions affect SenseTime, a Chinese tech behemoth valued at $7.5B and considered one of the world’s most valuable AI unicorns, and Megvii, another unicorn backed by Asian cloud giant Alibaba. Implemented in response to their alleged role in Beijing’s controversial surveillance programs, the ban prevents the companies from purchasing components from US companies without government approval.

Technology is both powerful and global—a valuable bargaining chip in any international dispute. For developers, that can complicate how they work and what tools they choose.

Recent history is flush with examples. GitHub limited users in disputed territories in Eastern Europe, as well as North Korea, Cuba, and Iran due to US sanctions. Huawei is likely building its own fork of Android after Google restricted access. Many cloud providers face growing threats from national governments to build servers within country borders due to data regulations.

AI engineering will likely not be spared.

In an age of data-driven development, AI restrictions trickle down the software supply chain. Researchers flock to particular companies and countries, regionalizing knowledge of advanced algorithms and data tools that become available to developers.

While open source technology and an open web have spread development tools around the world, international tensions may drive developers to think regionally rather than globally.


Achieving single-build simplicity: Apple moves closer to a universal app platform

Apple’s release of Catalyst pushes its app platform closer to achieving single-build simplicity—pushing a single codebase to a service that automatically transforms the source code to operate on multiple devices and operating systems.

Released earlier this week, Apple’s Catalyst helps developers quickly port iPad apps to the Mac store using their existing app source code. The ultimate, long-term goal is simple: write an app once and deploy across tens of millions of devices.

A simpler build process saves developers time while increasing their potential user base. For Apple, Catalyst increases the number of services available in its app ecosystem and lures in consumers.

Apple seems poised to expand the functionality of Catalyst over the next few years so that iOS, iPadOS, and MacOS apps are all built from the same code.

Catalyst is the latest in a major push from big technology platforms to achieve single-build simplicity.

Chrome currently offers similar functionality between Android and Chromebooks. Microsoft offers the Universal Windows Platform to help developers deploy code across Windows, Xbox, and HoloLens. Even cross-platform libraries, like Flutter and React Native, are helping developers create multiple apps with reusable components.

Single-build simplicity is mutually beneficial for developers and big tech. Platforms greater app coverage to attract more users. Developers are far more productive and spend fewer resources maintaining multiple apps.

Happier and more productive developers often determine platform success. Apple, Microsoft, and Google should pay close attention.


Small bytes

  • Linus Torvalds isn't worried about Microsoft taking over Linux. Microsoft now sees Linux as a tool to help grow Azure [ZDNET]
  • Microsoft's new dual screen Android-powered device makes Microsoft more dependent on Google's code [VERGE]
  • Google Cloud is worth more than IBM, SAP, Salesforce, and Oracle [BARRONS]
  • California bans deepfakes during election season. Deepfake technology is often open source and difficult to contain [VERGE]
  • Supreme Court rules that blind people can sue online retailers if websites are not accessible [LA TIMES]

Tools

  • Bot Land is an online strategy game where players battle each other with code [BOT LAND]
  • Spotify TUI is a beautiful terminal client for Spotify written in Rust [SPOTIFY TUI]
  • n8n is an open source alternative for Zapier/tray.io [N8N.IO]
  • Compress.Studio is a serverless image compression tool with a decentralized private storage [COMPRESS.STUDIO]
  • RSS API utomatically converts RSS, ATOM and JSON-Feeds into a unified, easily parsable JSON Format [RSS API]
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