Other topics may be more trendy, but when it comes to real progress, it’s all about the API. 

Seriously. Whether you’re talking SaaS or mobile, integration or Angry Birds, it’s going to boil down to an API — and usually, the ability to share it. 

Just today, I was talking to Informatica about its upcoming release, and lo, it brought up its new cloud developer toolkit, which includes access to an open API. The API will allow developers to build their own connectors and share them in templates. 

But if you don’t believe me, check out this week’s jury trial between Google and Oracle, which are right now pitted against each other in a legal battle that could impact how everyone uses APIs. 

Oracle is seeking approximately $1 billion in what boils down to copyright damages. Oh, sure, it’s about Java’s structural and organizational issues, if you read the mainstream press, but the technologists know better. 

Partner Solutions Architect Jaime Ryan of Layer 7, which offers API management solutions, sums up what’s really at stake in this trial during a recent blog post:

“With APIs fast becoming the core means for communicating enterprise data across organizational boundaries, this could have serious implications for enterprise architects.”

Technically, I guess you wouldn’t call APIs an integration solution per se, but APIs (specifically, open APIs) are frequently used to handle integration for SaaS and other cloud apps. 

I wrote about their value at some length back in 2009, but to make a long story short: APIs are the key to Facebook’s success. Think how easy it is to create an app for Facebook or log into another site with your Facebook ID and share data. Well, that’s the work of APIs. 

Ryan offered this more recent example:

“…our partner Eucalyptus Systems implements Amazon Web Services APIs to manage private Cloud infrastructure. A ruling that APIs are copyrightable would have put that usage in jeopardy, if Eucalyptus hadn’t recently announced an agreement with Amazon. Vendors reusing the VMware vCloud API would be in a similar predicament.”

Slashgear also examined how the trial could impact APIs, interoperability and, really, the Internet as we now know it. And while the piece sounds dramatic when it writes, “decisions around fair-use of APIs potentially casting coders into the morass of copyright hell,” I think it’s actually a fair assessment of the problems this could create. 

Judge William Alsup still needs to rule whether API adoption comes under fair use, the Slashgear article notes. But if he does, he said there will be “zero finding of copyright liability.” 

Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Julie Samuels told Slashgear the pure functional nature of APIs is a good legal reason not to treat APIs as copyrightable material. Copyright currently doesn’t cover programming languages, she said, which are considered mediums for creation, rather than a copyrightable creation.