I still don’t get it. After multiple clarifications with a friend about the recent donation of the what-once-was-only-Swagger API description format to the OAI (Open API Initiative), I’m still confused as to why the contribution of the impartial format without what would be very one-sided contributions of tooling around the format is not the safest step to getting a long-term standard for everyone to benefit from into the public domain. I argue, it is, even if we don’t know how it will turn out.
Not at the cool kids table, what do I know?
I get that some people are feeling confusion, frustration, shock, and even disgust. I also hear people expressing relief, clarity, gratefulness, and vision. The world has far fewer thought-leaders and way more people who want standards they can build cool shit with, make some money and some good happen, and ultimately go home knowing things will generally work as designed again tomorrow.
I’m about to state some things, job whatever. I had no say in the way any of this played out, but we need someone to clarify that the insides of my corporate office is filled with good, fair, and driven people. This is not an evil empire, unlike some other soft competitors, this is where I work. Respectfulness and honesty are two of the Apache Way tenants, two that ring true for me and those I work with.
What are the facts IMO?
Fact: Certain entities owned the rights to the Swagger technology and brand, which for better or worse started as a format plus a cool name mingled together. It eventually became so useful that the format was open-sourced. Later, a company was able to navigate the financial and political mess that has been the API description format landscape for years, producing an API ecosystem standard as significant to real implementers as other open standards like HTTP, JPEG, and . Still, the brand has monetary value but the spec has much broader universal value, and so the spec was donated.
Fact: No one could “sell” the Swagger format is because it was already open source, and though the brand was still legal property, it has been managed with no misinformation or clandestine story behind it. When technology becomes part of a commons, it no longer makes sense to have one brand dominate the tooling and the vendor ecosystem. A separation of the format and the brand was necessary. To convolute the new OADF (Open API Description Format) by including tools that specific vendors donated but not including others would have been even worse an idea than not separating out the format from the brand, and persisting to do so doesn’t prevent these tools from being just as useful and successful as they were before the OAI changes.
Fact: People that truly helped the Swagger ecosystem get to where it is today deserve due credit for what they have done. Their contributions continue to be pivotal to the OADF because without a community, big companies that are already strong-arming the media with boku marketing budgets and completely horse shit press releases will take the OAI over and rule the connected world, one bad choice at a time. The community must maintain leadership in the OAI, and if there’s no room at that table for proven thought-leaders who have already spent years improving and evangelizing the importance of a format like Swagger, then shame on those who say they are leaders but are to busy making ends meet to ask for the right kind of help or spearhead truly pivotal contributions to the open web.
Fact: SPDY was a great start to fixing something, and I liken the work done at Google with the help of the whole industry to elevate much of the great ideas there into the formal HTTP 2.0 spec. Same with WebRTC, if only we could get proprietary chipset manufacturers to be adults and ship more than one optimized instruction set for video decoding on their silicon communion wafers. Much like the SPDY-to-HTTP2 evolution, the need for a standard API description format is long overdue, the OADF being a necessary leap forward which should have happened years ago.
What are we left with in the OADF?
I admire people who stand up for what they feel is right and who are vocal about what happens when things don’t go the way they expected them to. A brand is monetarily valuable, search and replace on the internet is not possible (I get that), and decision-makers usually make the decisions they are hired to make. That’s just how that works.
In the meantime, we have a standard open API description format now, frankly better than all the rest of them, and we can build on it just like all the other foundational technology that makes up the connected world we live in today. Brands are bullshit anyway. It’s the meaning of the thing behind the name that matters.
Peace, love, and internet for everyone.