Etsy Launches API: Handcraft Your Own Shopping Apps

Bill Albright
Mar. 23 2009, 03:59PM EDT

At the craft shopping site Etsy nearly 144,000 individual sellers market handmade goods, commercial crafting supplies and vintage items through Etsy's custom shops. Part of Etsy's stock-in-trade has been to promote a feeling of community and closeness between sellers and buyers, by encouraging communication (with internal conversations called "convos"), featuring how-to tutorials, and telling the stories behind the artisan's process.

Now Etsy has announced a connection to independent developers with a new API that allows for the remixing of all the product and seller information on its site (details at our Etsy API profile). Etsy's announcement gives examples of some possible uses for the API:

- Search product listings and get detailed product information
- Query and return details on Etsy shops
- Find items favorited by other users
- Identify items that are currently featured across the site

Etsy's API documentation shows a simple RESTful GET call with versioning and JSON and JSONP responses. The API forums have code samples in PHP, Ruby, Perl, Flex, AS3, and .NET, and the documentation has an example of how to use JSONP to bypass crossdomain limitations while still capturing error codes. Sample apps from the beta program include the Heartomatic tracking tools, the Maker Spot website creation service (shown below), and the Etsyhacks set of scripts and tools for sellers. You can see these Etsy mashups in our directory and we'll add more Etsy mashups over time.

Maker Spot

Etsy's API is comprehensive - it exposes nearly all the data on its site (users, shops, shop sections, listings, gift guides, tags, categories, feedback, and methods), and includes complete item detail in the return results. Searching the goods programmatically is made easier by specific calls for many of the search filtering methods, including ones that mimic its search by color and featured sellers profiles.

The terms of use state that "reasonable commercial uses of the API are permitted" and give examples of what is prohibited and what is permissible. In general Etsy wants applications that smooth the process for sellers, and help buyers discover and purchase goods through Etsy, but won't allow applications that bypass or interfere with its main experience. Commercial use is allowed where money can be made on a complementary service or the showing of ads.

Creativity and individual expression form a common link between artistic craftspeople and hacker developers. CTO Chad Dickerson in an earlier post outlined the philosophy that drives Etsy's API, and in many ways the other APIs profiled here on ProgrammableWeb:

Fundamentally, the companies behind successful platforms recognize that there is untapped creativity and unmet needs beyond the four walls of a company. Motivated by inherent curiosity and the desire to build something new, developers push the boundaries of a platform and suggest what is possible. Passionate communities form around these technology platforms. New products and services are built on these platforms, which inspire other developers. It's good for everyone.

Or for a different kind of creative inspiration, check out the clock made from a hard drive, the crocheted and fleece fingerless programmer handwarmers, and the cufflinks crafted from used Apple keyboards.

Bill Albright

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