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Web content management diminishing in importance, says GSA official

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The White House's digital government strategy directs agencies to streamline their backend web content management systems and create application programming interfaces, or APIs, for their content. But crafting APIs is far more important than focusing on web platforms, said Gray Brooks, API strategist at the General Services Administration's digital services innovation center.

"The philosophies are going to soon be competing," said Brooks, while speaking Oct. 11 at the World Government Summit on Open Source in Washington, D.C.

"At some point the question's going to come, if you achieve that goal--for the public at least--why does the website matter if you can achieve it through API?" he said.

Agency websites are going to "sublimate" and become less relevant, said Brooks. With APIs, the experience can then serve the user where they're already looking for information. Any presentation layer can simply query an API to call up data, rather than loading content into a more rigid CMS, he said.

"When you think about what's going to be the face of the agency in 2015 or 2016, nobody knows what that is," said Brooks. "But the fact is, it's not going to be about us. It's going to be everywhere else."

Brooks said his conversations with agencies are shifting to focus less and less on web CMSes and more on APIs. He said the change in philosophy is similar to his personal experience: He cares less about the operating system on his computer than he does about the browser he uses, because most of his activities are web-based.   

"At some point, be willing to let the CMS become abstracted, and actually focus on making sure that the content, the data, the services are handled by the APIs," said Brooks.

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