“Tin Can API” vs “Experience API”
You may have heard that ADL issued an official name for the Tin Can API. They call it “The Experience API”.
This move is generating a lot of confusion. Is it the “Tin Can API”? Or, is it the “Experience API”?
Rustici Software is going to call it the “Tin Can API”.
Unfortunately, as a government organization ADL has to play by a stricter set of rules than the rest of us. Bureaucracy has them stuck with an official name of “Experience API” that they commonly refer to as “Experience API (xAPI)”.
We gave it a lot of thought. Here’s why we are sticking with “Tin Can”:

  • There is too much momentum behind the name “Tin Can” for it to change now. “Tin Can” is what people know. It is what the community wants to call it.
  • ADL will be transferring ownership of the spec to a public standards body after v1.0 is complete this Spring. After that transfer, we don’t expect the official government name “Experience API” to last much longer.
  • From a branding perspective, “Tin Can” is a better, more identifiable name.
  • It would require a large effort for the community to effectively rebrand itself. Those efforts would be better used to improve the spec and encourage real adoption.

Why Rename the Spec?
In 2010, ADL issued Rustici Software a research grant to propose an experience API. This experience API was the first requirement for creating ADL’s “Training and Learning Architecture (TLA)”.

Rustici Software conducted that research project under the codename “Project Tin Can” and submitted the “Tin Can API” as the result.

ADL looked at the “Tin Can API” alongside several other options and decided that the “Tin Can API” best fulfilled the requirements for its experience API component of the TLA.

Thus in the bureaucracy’s eyes, there is a master plan for a Training and Learning Architecture that contains an experience API. In today’s incarnation, the “Experience API” is currently implemented by the “Tin Can API”. It is conceivable that at a later date, the requirements of the Experience API could be fulfilled by a different protocol.

In their eyes, it’s not a new name, it’s just the original official name.

Meanwhile, the industry recognizes that the “Tin Can API” provides a solution to many of its problems and continues its rush to adopt it.

Is Rustici Software’s Decision Final?

No decision is ever final, but “Tin Can” is what we are going with for the foreseeable future. If reason #1 above changes and the community decides to call it “Experience API” we will likely go along.

A Word About Trademarks

As part of Project Tin Can, Rustici Software applied for trademarks to protect the name “Tin Can API”. The USPTO is currently processing these applications and we expect formal trademarks to be awarded soon. In May 2012, Questionmark raised some very valid concerns about our ownership of these trademarks.

We publicly stated then, and will reiterate here, that we consider these trademarks to be property of ADL. We have already asked ADL to begin the process of transferring them to government control.

Rustici Software has no interest in maintaining proprietary control over these trademarks nor do we have any intention of using them for competitive advantage. We simply registered them because we felt it a prudent part of our research project to protect the resultant intellectual property. We were following the precedent set by CTC when they developed SCORM many years ago.

As we stated in May, if you would like for us to provide more explicit and legally binding assurances regarding use of the Tin Can trademarks, please just let us know.

Mike is the CEO of Watershed, though he is the Founder and was President of Rustici Software until 2016. He helped guide the first draft of the Tin Can API (xAPI) and believes ice cream is the "elixir of life."