Amazon has announced that they will no longer be supporting the Alexa Web Search API. This web service has been in operation since December 2005 and offered developers access to Alexa's underlying search engine. Note, this search API is different than the API to Alexa Web Information Service, which provides access to things like the web site traffic metrics Alexa collects (for more on the APIs, see our Alexa Web Search and Alexa Web Information Service profiles).
As noted over at TechCrunch, Michael Arrington posted the full content of the email sent to developers:
Dear Alexa Developer,
The Alexa Web Search service will no longer be available to new customers as of November 26, 2008. Use of the service is low, so we are shifting our priorities to other areas where we can provide better service to AWS customers.
The Alexa Web Search service will continue to be operational for 60 days until January 26, 2009. The ProgrammableWeb website offers a list of web services that provide web search.
We apologize for the inconvenience to you.
The Alexa Web Services Team
Note that the email includes a reference to ProgrammableWeb's directory of search-related APIs, which at the moment lists 35 APIs in this category.
We have a handful of Alex Web Search mashups listed in our directory. One of the more interesting ones is Musipedia, the "Open Music Encyclopedia", which uses Alexa to search the web by melody. Give the engine a keyword or melodic contour, and it returns similar music (more at our Musipedia profile).
While APIs are launched with the best of intentions, there is no guarantee they will survive forever. Just as with any web site, or any product or offline business for that matter, anything from changing strategy, to macro economics, to lack of market interest are all ways in which a service might cease operation.
Want a case in point? Look no further than earlier this week when it was announced that the microblogging service Pownce will be shutting down. What didn't get much coverage in the news coverage was the inevitably that the Pownce API will go away with it. Which in turn means that any mashups built on that API will be impacted. We have 7 Pownce mashups listed in our directory. One developer noted that the API already appears to be down. At the top of their Developer's page, shown below, you can see the notice about the pending service shutdown.
As the current economic crisis takes its toll on Web 2.0 startups we may start to see more stories of APIs fading away.