“Breaking Changes” with ngrok’s Peter Shafton, formerly of Twilio: veteran API stories


Twilio has been one of the go-to providers that API pundits have used over the last decade to showcase API success, so I was happy to have Peter Shafton, former VP at Twilio and current CTO of ngrok, on Breaking Changes. Peter shared his belief in the importance of developer tooling and how empowering it can be when it comes to the ground floor of our enterprise operations. In this episode, Peter shared some valuable insights and lessons from his time at Twilio over the last decade, while also giving a sneak peek at the impact that ngrok will have on the API universe over the next decade.

I found Peter to possess a very veteran view of the API landscape. He understands the promise we make when we put APIs into production, the cost of sustainment, and the toll each API release takes on producers and consumers. After talking with so many people in the API space, I can tell when someone has spent a significant amount of time in the trenches because they’ve gained a strong grasp on the importance of simplicity as well as the API contracts between producer and consumer. Peter clearly understands what API-first means and knows how to wield it against a very bedrock, but also entrenched, industry, while at the same time working to change behavior within the enterprise organizations you are selling services to. Peter shared stories about the continued opportunity that exists within the telco industry, as well as how hard it will be to move forward into the next generation.

Expanding the API economy

I talk about API ecosystems and the API economy with a lot of people across many different industries, but Peter was able to articulate the expanding economic power of APIs firsthand. He shared stories of how Twilio powered Uber, DoorDash, and other gig marketplaces that have been rapidly shifting the global business landscape over the last decade, echoing what I’ve heard many smart folks point out in the past couple of years: that the API economy opportunity isn’t about API-as-a-Product resources—like SMS from Twilio or payments from Stripe—it’s about the meaningful digital experiences and capabilities they power.

This reflects the seismic shift we are seeing at Postman when it comes to APIs. It isn’t just about REST and HTTP APIs anymore. It’s about the digital capabilities that are enabled through a diverse API toolbox, and if you haven’t mastered the REST and HTTP fundamentals, it’s likely you are going to be left behind.

Responding to shifting landscapes

Peter shared some of the most sobering examples of how API-first is going to help enterprise organizations respond to regulatory shifts in the business landscape like GDPR and CCP. It will be difficult for API-early enterprise organizations to adapt to the new API standardization that is being introduced as a result of the shifting regulatory policy landscape. Peter highlighted some real-world ways in which being API-first and making self-service digital resources and capabilities available helps make our sprawling API landscape more observable and manageable, which makes our enterprise operations more actionable. My conversation with Peter is helping me put to rest some of the tired stories about why Twilio matters to the world of APIs and provides me with the next generation of stories about why the innovative startup still matters after all these years.

Empowering developers

Beyond the conversations about Twilio, Peter also shared a sneak peek into what he’ll be doing at ngrok as the CTO: continuing his journey of helping enable and empower developers with what they need to be successful. This includes helping us deploy and make services available without worrying about security, scalability, and other common challenges, as well as providing developers with the modular compute resources they need to assemble the next generation of reliable services we’ll need to do business in a digital age.

My conversation with Peter provided me with a whole new set of stories to tell about one of my favorite API providers and continues to validate the role that APIs are going to play when it comes to industry regulation, which I think will be one of the most important conversations we will all be having in the next decade. Hopefully, you’ll find my conversation with Peter as enlightening as I did, and that it provides you with more of that valuable API wisdom you will need to make the change you want within your own organization and the industries in which you operate.

You can tune in and subscribe to the Breaking Changes podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Amazon Music, or watch it on YouTube for more details.

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