Low-risk IT experiment No. 1: APIs While some data must be kept secret, most information gets richer the more it is spread around. In fact, many Web companies trumpet the fact that they share some of their best data with others, even competitors. All it takes is the right call to their APIs.
Even the stodgiest 19th-century holdovers can benefit from releasing the right mixture of information through an API. All it takes is the ability to identify the information customers seek most and to build an API that reveals the right data to the right people at the right time.
In most cases, this information is already being delivered through a Web interface. An API would amount to the same information packaged in a programmer-friendly format such as XML or JSON. For example, a form on your Website can be recast as an API call to post data. Such an API would allow your business partners to automate the process of completing and submitting this form, thereby providing a deeper link between your Website and theirs.
Let's say your company requires registration for new customers. Turning this registration form into an API would enable your partners to register customers automatically. These clients can then gain access to the services of both companies, while both companies stand to greatly increase their customer base by working together through the use of this API.
Opening functions such as registration is easy; other data sources, however, require some care, as automation ceases to be a big help when it opens doors to spammers, bots, and other mixtures of minor and major fraud. Many APIs limit the number of times a partner can submit requests each day -- a simple barrier that can help ensure a mutually beneficial relationship. Companies such as Mashery.com aim to simplify many of the problems that can arise when you expose information in the form of APIs by offering simple throttling and authentication.