Will Pinterest publish a public API and turn the site’s stereotypical discussions of cutting baby fat and shopping for Jimmy Choo shoes into a full-blown 'web-ecosystem' tailored for third party developers? "Once Pinterest publishes an API, 3rd party developers could extend core Pinterest functionality, enrich the user experience, and accelerate user adoption." Says Chris Haddad, WSO2 Vice President of Technology Evangelism.
If you don't know what Pinterest is, consider yourself lucky. It's a spot where people, but mostly women, can post pictures and links to things that fascinate them. Essentially, it ends up promoting some of the most disparaging stereotypes proponents of the women’s liberation movement have been fighting against for years. A quick look at the site at 7:03am on April 4th shows a plethora of pictures of wedding dresses, women skinny enough to give any young girl an eating disorder, home decorating tips, lots of pictures of expensive shoes and countless inspirational sayings that either include the word ‘love’ or explain why 'you are better than him.'
But love it for its simplicity, or hate it for the simpleminded manner in which it portrays women, you can't argue its success. Women love it. I once introduced a friend to it and a week later we had to file a missing persons report.
But back to the API issue. Apparently, Pinterest has cold feet on the idea of releasing an API, with the basic explanation being that they fear that they'll screw things up as bad as Twitter did when they embarked on the API path.
"Twitter released its API when it was still an immature company, allowing developers to build applications with features that it was missing. When Twitter matured, and it wanted to control its platform, it began adding those features, thus damaging those developers." Said Jay Yarow on businessinsider.com
In his article entitled Pinterest API and the Money Board, Chris Haddad, WSO2 vice president of technology evangelism, goes into more detail on how Twitter screwed up, and how Pinterest can jump into the game without making the same mistakes.
"The problem for Twitter? Twitter didn’t have mechanisms in place to monetize their user base, had their customer ownership diluted, and the company increasingly saw external companies making money from their extensions. The solution, Twitter embarked on a costly and time consuming defensive strategy to buy Twitter clients, locked down access to their API, and disenfranchised the 3rd party developer community." Says Chris.
So, what's the right strategy for releasing an API, monetizing the user base and doing it all without losing clients? How does a company create an engaging environment that promotes the APIs use?
"Rather than rely solely on data APIs, we have seen forward-thinking organizations create ecosystem platforms revolving around user experience APIs and domain specific hosting environments. With user experience APIs, the platform company can create an ‘Apple experience’; maintaining customer ownership by controlling the ‘look and feel’ and by authorizing third party extensions."
That's an interesting approach. It'd be even more interesting if this humble editor knew what a user experience API was. And there’s no doubt the TSS readership would be less leery of the solution if it didn't start to slide down the path of being a 'one cloud to rule them all' type of solution. Every time the cloud gets promoted as a solution, alarm bells should go off. But I guess Chris can't be blamed for positioning the cloud combined with the WSO2 AppFactory as a possible solution to the problem; after all, he is their evangelist.
Regardless, Pinterest is an interesting site, Twitter is an interesting case study, and it's always interesting to see how the cloud gets shoehorned in as the solution to every technical problem out there. Take a look at Chris' insight into the issues and see if he’s on to something with his suggested strategy.