Tag Archives: api

Death to web services. Long live web services!

Yahoo! is apparently shutting down Delicious, which has people falling all over themselves backing up their own data from the site and putting their bookmarks onto lesser-known services, which I’m sure will all exist until the end of time. These moves are sometimes underscored by many on Twitter by claiming that these other services “are better than Delicious anyway”, which they very well may be, although these comments reek of justification. No need: if you want to move your bookmarks, they’re yours. Just move them.

But that’s the thing: we’re talking about bookmarks, the loss of which will hardly leave you living out of a cardboard box. And what happens when bad things happen to Flickr? GMail? Evernote? That site you do all your finances on? Project management and invoicing? Time tracking?

You may back up all your data, which makes the downfall of any of these services less painful. Unless you just keep your original photos on your own computer, but all of your photo metadata was entered on Flickr and you have no backup of that. Poof! But we all know Flickr’s not going anywhere, right? Too many users. Actively developed. Very popular. Cough. It’s the same reason we can depend on YQL (which I still find absolutely brilliant BTW). Yahoo! will give us all at least six months notice if they decide to pull the plug on YQL, which gives us the time to change all of the client work we made utilizing it. And of course our clients will have six months to get a budget to hire us to make the necessary changes.

But what are we complaining about? It’s all free. Having to move our bookmarks is not really a huge problem, but we all seem appalled that large companies care about money. Since when is this an anomaly? Company sees something cool, hopes to make money, buys it, doesn’t make enough money, poof. Here’s a truth for you: most companies only care about your data insofar as this data can help them make money. They have this site and you fill it. You fill it.

A couple of years ago I was on the fence about this. No longer. For a while we’ve posted our data all over the internet on all types of services. These services provide APIs so we can access the data we put into them, so that we can do things with that data. Read that again.

Richard Stallman, in his usual come-out-swinging way, has commented on this before. And I believe he has a point. Our data is our own, and it’s up to us to look after it. But how?

What if we flipped this all on its head? What if we hosted our own data, and provided APIs for all these webapps so that they can use our data? I can imagine that to be a substantially cool use of RDFa/Microformats and whatever metadata/semantic web technologies you prefer. Isn’t one of the points of the semantic web to make decentralized information meaningful, retrievable and mixable?

So instead of having our own websites aggregate our own data from other people’s websites, we’ll let other people use the data from our own websites. Photos, meaningfully tagged, can be pulled in by Flickr via our own personal API, if you will. We provide the structured data, Flickr provides the functionality. The sharing. The social. Why not?

Personal publishing platforms like WordPress, Drupal, [your favorite here] could be extended to make use of microformatting, RDF, etc. and provide tools for syndication, as we now do with simple blogposts. Services don’t need to host our data. They only need to do cool things with it. So when I quit service X, or service Y falls the Way of GeoCities, I don’t need to do anything but cancel my account. Or leave it and forget about it. If I change my information, it’s automatically changed on all the services using it. Storage space is up to me. Privacy settings? Totally up to me.

Awesome, providing the host doesn’t go *poof*.

Let’s get to it.

[Disclaimer: As some services die, some of the above links will rot. Make of that what you will.]

[UPDATE: Please also read Jeremy Keith’s related post from 2008.]