What do we mean by ‘open platforms’? What’s an API?

A platform is a broad term that could mean a lot of different things — here we use ‘platform’ to refer to a system that makes its data available both to users and to external systems (which can be ‘built upon’ the platform).

For example, you can get a forecast from the National Weather Service by going to Weather.Gov. But the NWS also offers ‘a web service,’ otherwise known as an ‘Application Programming Interface’, or API. An API enables the data in one information system to be automatically accessible by other information systems. The NWS API enables developers to build applications that connect to the Weather.gov ‘platform’ in order to seamlessly provide public weather data to skiiers, photographers, rainbow chasers, etc.

Platforms enable their data to be accessed and used in all kinds of ways, many of which could not be provided by those who operate the platform themselves.

By ‘open platform,’ we specifically mean three things:

  • An open platform enables its data to be both accessed directly by users and also published in open formats
  • An open platform is powered by technology that is freely available through open licenses
  • An open platform is a system in which interoperability and integration are the primary design objectives


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