Question

What are the building blocks the next generation of apps need, for what AWS, Twilio, Stripe and more do for today's apps?

AWS turned storage, computing, databases, and more into an API call. Twilio did the same to phone calls and SMS messages. Stripe did that to money. Sendgrid and Mailgun and more did that to email.

Everything's an API, or so it seems, and you can rapidly turn your idea into an app without negotiating credit card processing rates and telecom deals, or hosting real servers in metal racks.

But that doesn't cover everything. What are the next APIs and computing building blocks that are needed, that can do what AWS did for this generation of SaaS for the next generation of software? Or which of today's computing building blocks could be vastly improved?

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MichaelKovacs's avatar

Great tweet about this -

And feel like there is so much potential to wrap important building blocks of businesses into an API call. Some fav examples are:

Shipping - https://goshippo.com/
Direct mail (Yep, still matters) - https://www.lob.com/
Content Management - https://www.contentful.com/
Ecommerce - https://commercelayer.io/
Search - https://www.algolia.com/

And so many more still to be built...

4 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @MichaelKovacs )
7d

@MichaelKovacs Great list here! Lob's a great example of software eating the world, of something that at face value has no obvious connection to tech and APIs and yet fits perfectly as an API that enables product companies to build delightful features into their products without much additional work.

1 point
iCanAutomate's avatar

I love APIs so listing some that are great examples of building blocks:

Abstract - Collection of APIs to build common features such as email verification, phone validation, Geolocation, etc.

Courier - Design and deliver notifications across multiple channels -- email, SMS, Push, Slack, etc.

Pusher - In-app chat, location tracking, notifications, and charts/dashboards for your app.

Obviously - Add ML-based predictions or NLP to your app.

Datawaves - Add visualization of event analytics to your app.

Mux - Live and on-demand video experiences.

Cloudinary - Image and video manipulation

I believe the next wave of building blocks will not belong to a behemoth such as AWS. Instead, best-in-class products will offer APIs to expand the distribution of their existing products.

Tray embedded is also a great example. Want to enable your users to integrate your product with hundreds of others? Why build them when you can use a best-in-class product's API to do this?

4 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @iCanAutomate )
7d

@iCanAutomate That's an incredible list, thanks for sharing!

On chat+notifications APIs, Stream is another nice option we've used. And ImageOptim's API is another great option on the image editing side.

Datawaves looks incredible; I may have to go use that. Abstract could almost be the next Twilio—that's a wild number of APIs in one set.

It definitely would be quite the turn if the trend towards API-powered products started by AWS was also what led newer developers to use AWS less than today's products do.

The only problem is how many dependencies your application ends up with over time, if you outsource everything like this. But it's hard to argue with how much more rapidly it lets you build and ship software!

1 point
iCanAutomate's avatar
@iCanAutomate (replying to @maguay )
7d

You're welcome @maguay and Stream looks pretty amazing too.

Sure there are dependencies which can be gotten rid off once you have the scale and the resources to build in-house. Until then, these APIs just make it so much easier to build and maintain high-quality products without worrying about infra and scaling issues.

AWS is great but I believe there are many reasons for companies to adopt these nice providers.

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @iCanAutomate )
7d

And then, odds are, you'll see AWS rolling out more niche APIs, and the ensuring price wars that will follow...

1 point
bigal123's avatar

Sad to say this, but probably the ability to target people better once you've build your application. Currently, only big companies who can pay DSPs to get troves of user data or the main providers themselves (Google, Facebook, etc.) let you have access to these millions of cookies for advertising purposes. I think this will be democratized where a maker could pay by the request (e.g. I have an email address, give me everything you know about that person) to better target that person with features, content, and in-app messaging. Guessing one of these providers will set up a model where you can purchase a cookie like a serverless function.

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @bigal123 )
7d

@bigal123 Over the weekend I was reading Ben Thompson of Stratechery's interview with Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson about Twilio's acquisition of Segment, and it made a similar point. Essentially, companies today need to gather more data about customers to be able to create more personal relationships, and not just rely on Facebook and Google targeting to find the right people. "When we talk to customers, there’s a new notion emerging of a digital relationship," said Lawson. "Just like human relationships, if you’re bad at it, if you don’t really know anything about the person you’re talking to, it’s not a very genuine thing, everybody feels that."

Of course, that's talking about keeping better tabs on existing customers and their wants/needs. Going beyond that to find similar audiences, without using Facebook Ads, would be huge.

2 points
bigal123's avatar
@bigal123 (replying to @maguay )
6d

For sure, the question is whether a small startup should/can have access to this trove of data before their users have done any meaningful activity on the startup's product.

2 points
blairrorani's avatar
@blairrorani (replying to @bigal123 )
9d
1 point
bigal123's avatar
@bigal123 (replying to @blairrorani )
9d

I'm talking about something much more comprehensive than Clearbit where you're able to get preferences from your Facebook data, Amazon shopping patterns, credit card purchases etc. All your data is already being sold to data aggregators, just a matter of time before someone turns that into a service.

1 point
blairrorani's avatar
@blairrorani (replying to @bigal123 )
9d

For sure. Was more highlighting the basic idea but accessed via a single API. Good one

1 point
shawnyeager's avatar

Disclaimer: I’m VP sales for the company.

We’re working to make the pains of privacy compliance (GDPR, CCPA, etc.) just go away.

Dataswift provides APIs and a PaaS that provides secure, privacy compliant mobility of PII across apps, services, and borders using PDAs, or personal data accounts. They're hosted by us, legally owned by the individual customer, and accessible on-demand by app builders.

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @shawnyeager )
7d

@shawnyeager Privacy and legal compliance are if anything harder to solve and plan around than technical needs, so that's awesome to see. Does your product do anything to help SaaS that uses your service create terms of service and privacy agreements too?

1 point
shawnyeager's avatar
@shawnyeager (replying to @maguay )
6d

We provide templates, but don’t automate currently. Is that something you see a market for?

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @shawnyeager )
6d

Possibly! Atrium was originally aimed at being legal-as-a-service app that was used for making ToS and such, though know they changed their business model so that might mean there's a gap in the market or that that's a hard business to build out.

2 points
elof's avatar
8d

I believe all applications will be build as distributed in the not so distant future.

Check out: https://macrometa.com

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @elof )
7d

Interesting—that's definitely something using APIs to power your application enables, where otherwise you would need to be a Google/Facebook sized company to have your software hosting distributed around the globe.

1 point
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