How Darwin’s Finches and API’s Are Connected in the Post 20th Century Economy

A lot get said about the economic value of API’s but few have illustrated it as well as Sam Ramji did last week at Web 2.0 in San Francisco.

Ramji, vice president of strategy at Sonoa Systems, used his presentation at the Web 2.0 conference to compare Darwin’s theories about finches to the 20th century economy and the rise of API’s.

Darwin’s Finches, 20th Century Business, and APIs

Darwin made the connection between adaption and evolution by studying the finches on the Galápagos Islands. The Galapagos Islands are a remote place. As Ramji points out, the finches that survived were the ones who adapted best to the severe environmental pressures of the islands hey inhabited.

Much is true for the evolution of 20th century business. In the early 20th century, the economy operated through a direct model. With the evolution of the business economy came a network effect that lead to new channels for physical goods. This shift in the economy meant the emergence of supply chains and ecosystems that ran on infrastructures made of roads, railways and flight paths.

Then the Internet emerged. The Web arrived about 15 years ago. People and the businesses where they worked went online with their own Web sites.

Today, the infrastructure is far deeper with API’s connecting loosely joined networks. These API’s represent a new indirect economy where business is conducted through interconnected services.


“I believe that we’re going through such a surge right now as the early versions of the web – designed for people using browsers – gives way to the next version: using APIs to design the web for people using applications that communicate on their behalf in complex ways to the services that make up the world’s businesses.”

Ramji is planning to do a voice over for his slides. But I think you will get the picture once you go through his deck.

We are just at the beginning of this wave. Ramji puts the issues in perspective to form a context for the importance of API’s and why they so well represent cloud computing and its importance in the shaping of a new economy.

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