Low-code/no-code platforms fuelled by APIs

APIs are technical and targeted to application developers who most often are professionals or skilled hobby developers. The barrier to consume APIs has become evident in Open Data movement. Open data started from datasets, files that are distributed with open license via platforms such as CKAN. People such as journalist with no knowledge of programming can pull CSV file from open data catalogue, import it to spreadsheet and do some fiddling with the data to create charts and pies. After files, open data started to expand to APIs. The amount of capable people to consume open data via APIs hit the rock bottom like water goes down in Niagara falls. It’s too complicated for layman to use APIs — files are easy.

Low-code/no-code platforms are targeted to such non-technical people, some call them citizen science oriented. Competition in no-code platforms is fierce and there’s plenty of solutions. We don’t need to jump into complex looking environments to understand what no-code platforms are.

Many of the readers probably has used IFTTT orZapier? Both of them rely on APIs! Those are the first steps towards next level of API consumption and good examples of no-code/low-code platforms.

IFTTT simple task automation

With If-This-Then-That (IFTTT) layman users can automate tasks without programming skills. To me this reminds a bit BASH scripts in Linux environments but with graphical user interface in browser. In IFTTT you don’t need to create automation recipes from scratch. The service contains plenty of ready made recipes. Sill the things you can automate are rather simple.

Zapier — multi-step automation

Another popular task automation platform is Zapier. It’s pretty much like IFTTT but with a little more professional touch (personal opinion). With Zapier you can chain operations — or as they say create workflows. This alone lets you create more complex automations.

The two targeted to layman use and adopted by less technical people, low learning curve. More complex task automation is possible with Zapier, but it’s a bit cumbersome.

Serverless Low-Code platform — devslab

Another player in the game is devslab.com which targets people with adequate programming skills. Considering that K12 education in various countries now includes programming skills, this might not be such a bad orientation.

With devslab tool you consume npm packages and fill in pre-built javascript code. Of course you can write them from scratch as well. With devslab tool you can do more complex operations more easily (but with some programming skills) than with Zapier.

API SDKs to package management level

How is this related to APIs? API providers build and sometimes generate SDKs for their APIs. Using just SDK generation and pushing zip package out is not good enough. I’ve interviewed hundreds of API consumers and they pretty much all say the same. Alternative option for zip distribution is to take SDKs to the next level — package management such as pip in python ja npm in node.

We are discussing with Devslab that they would come to APIOps meetup in November in Tampere to give a demo and discuss API approach which is at the core of their solution