A Brief Look At The History Of OpenAPI and Its Impact On The Industry

OpenAPI Specification, or the means to develop an Application Programming Interface (API) through public access of proprietary software applications and web services, is now regarded as the de facto technology in building Representational State Transfer Technology (RESTful) APIs. If you’ve dipped your toes into API design and you know the importance of using an OpenAPI Specification Toolkit, then you might already know of OpenAPI’s ties to Swagger, a game-changing innovator of API implementation tools. 

But just how connected are OpenAPI and Swagger—and what does their history have to do with a humble dictionary and thesaurus engine? Here’s your answer by way of a short history of OpenAPI, its prowess in its home industry, and what to expect from API technology in the very near future. 

The Rise of OpenAPI: A Timeline of Events

    • 2009. Tony Tam, Vice President for Engineering at online dictionary service Wordnik, creates the Swagger user interface (UI) for the use of his company. Among other things, this UI is able to describe Wordnik’s JSOM API, and it improves the company’s developer console/documentation, code integration, and code generation functions. It also brings home the bacon in terms of engagement, as the public API eventually draws in a billion requests for Wordnik per month.

    • 2011. Tam, soon to be crowned Wordnik’s Chief Technology Officer, published the first version of what’s called the Swagger Specification. It’s been hyped up by a cheeky tagline taking a dig at Web Application Description Language: “Why WADL when you can SWAGR?”

    • 2014. This year sees the launch of the Swagger Specification v. 1.2 in March, with the first version of Swagger to be written up as a formal specification document. Six months later in September, v. 2.0 is released, reorganizing the two-file format of the previous versions into a single streamlined document. Notable improvements in Swagger 2.0 include increased API metadata support and the allowance of vendor extensions. These propel Swagger 2.0’s widespread adoption in the API industry.

    • 2015. This is a milestone year in which leading API testing and development tool company SmartBear Software acquire business interests in Swagger. SmartBear then donates the Swagger Specification to Linux Foundation’s newly built OpenAPI Initiative. Soon after, the Swagger Specification is rebranded in the industry as the OpenAPI Specification. Founding members of the OpenAPI initiative include tech giants like Google, IBM, Microsoft, PayPal, 3Scale, Apigee, Capital One, and Restlet along with SmartBear.

    • 2017. The OpenAPI Specification is now managed by its own Technical Steering Committee, which oversees its growth along principles of utmost openness and transparency. This is also the year that OpenAPI Specification v. 3.0.0 is launched, aligning more closely with JSON Schema draft 5 vocabulary and possessing more features like links and callbacks. 
    • 2019. The dates October 15, 16, and 17 are declared for the OpenAPI Initiative’s next API Specifications Conference (ASC), with Vancouver, British Columbia as its venue. The agenda includes a discussion of API’s future, along with its intersections in formats like RAML, gRPC, JSON, GraphQL, and more. 


Aftermath: A Twofold Legacy for Future API Development

Tony Tam, Swagger, SmartBear, and the OpenAPI Initiative may not have expected their brainchild to become a household name for RESTful APIs, but now that that has happened, two very good things have come out of it. For one, the steady growth of OpenAPI has inspired the action of some of the world’s biggest leaders in tech, and they are currently at the forefront of pushing the boundaries for API innovation. 

For another, OpenAPI proffers opportunities even for the fledgling players in tech, namely those from startups or rookie developers. This is truly a technology that helps them learn, play around, and build their names with their own APIs!