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The API-ization of Everything

Everything that used to be fax machines, contracts, and invoices and purchase orders in triplicate are going away. What's replacing it? The API.
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Before Stripe, you had to fill out a ton of forms and get approval to get a merchant account. Now you can sign up on a website and make simple REST API calls. Before Twilio you had to go through similar hoops just to be able to work with phone numbers. Once again, the API prevails, and whole new capabilities are unlocked.

Recent YC company Lob is bringing this same kind of capability to print anything -; on any kind of paper, any size, and mail it to anyone -; all via a simple REST API. This is a big deal because paper is actually still the interface for the rest of the world -; the rest of the world that still uses paper contracts, paper checks, and paper invoices. The company is already printing millions of dollars worth of checks!

Think about most of the bad customer interactions we end up having to have on a typical day -; to do anything in business, really. We get on a phone and we get voicemail. We wait a few days for our purchase order to be approved. If software is eating every industry and every type of economic activity, then the force that is replacing it is actually software talking to other software. That's the API.

This world has been a long time coming. We've heard enough about e-business thanks to huge ad budgets by enterprise IT consultant behemoths! But rather than those huge wasteful IT firms, the people bringing it to us are the hacker-oriented dev-savvy API companies like Stripe, Twilio and Lob. Where there is paper to push, a call to answer, or a purchase to approve, there is an API coming to replace it.

This post was originally published on Garry Tan's blog and has been reprinted with his permission. 

Last updated: Nov 7, 2013

GARRY TAN | Columnist | Founder, Posthaven

Garry Tan is a partner with Y Combinator. He invests in early-stage Internet start-ups and helps them build world-class user experiences. Garry is a designer and software engineer who co-founded Posterous, and now runs Posthaven.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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