REST API Notes for 2016/05/23


If you follow API news, then you've - no doubt - seen the various "hot takes" regarding the ongoing Oracle v. Google case. The issue is whether Oracle can claim a copyright on Java APIs and, if so, whether Google infringes these copyrights. Claiming it is nerds verses the "normals" or a referrendum on open source software makes for a salacious headline.

To be clear, the case isn't about the copyrightable nature of the implementation. In developing the Android operating system, Google wrote its own version of Java. The problem is that, for consistency, Google used the same names, organization, and functionality as the Java APIs - essentially, the copyrightable nature of the interface is what is on trial.

This case has been kicking around for years. In 2014, I workshopped the restaurant-menu analogy with Kin Lane. The thinking was that any number of fast food places serve burgers, fries, and a soda. While the interface, the menu, may be incredibly similar the implementation - a Whopper, a Big Mac, etc. - are different. Nobody would cede the right to a particular set of foodstuffs to a single vendor; only allowing McDonalds to sell burgers and fries because they have a copyright on that menu is insane. Likewise, giving Oracle the sole ability to have functions named a certain way in a particular set seems equally egregious.

It was surreal, then, to read that Jonathan Schwartz, former Sun Microsystems CEO, subsquently use the menu metaphor while on the stand. On one hand, it is humbling to think that the defense, with millions in resources, hit upon the same storytelling method to explain their position. On the other hand, given the stakes, we're reliant on a jury's willingness to understand hackneyed physical metaphors for complex technical systems. If Oracle wins, I don't believe we've fully fleshed out what the ramifications will be on the nascent API economy.

Time will tell.


The API Days Conference series continues to find new and exotic locations to discuss the ramifications of API tool chain development. The most recent event, May 18th and 19th in Tampere, Finland, was no exception. While I couldn't be there in person, watching the event's Twitter hashtag surfaced a host of interesting links. There was Dredd, a language-agnostic command-line tool for validating API documentation. Don't let the fact it is limited to API Blueprint scare you off; through the use of the fantastic APIMatic tool, APITransformer, even users of other popular API description schemas can benefit. There was also APInf, an API Management Platform. Similar to Mashape, it is a lightweight marketplace for API providers and consumers to meet. Finally, the highlight of the conference was the announcement of the API Starter Pack. Collecting some of the most common API tools for almost $12,500 worth of savings, it is an absolutely phenomenal way of getting started with APIs. Sound interesting? Don't delay - that incredible value is limited to the first 1,000 sign-ups.


It has been a fun couple of weeks. The API governance training in San Francisco that I lead went well. I want to also send a big thank you to Lexy Mayko for the interview that appeared on API2Cart.

I'll be updating with Meetup items (hopefully) later today. If you have any items that should be on the list, let me know!

Till next time,

Matthew (@libel_vox)

Subscribe to Net API Notes

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.