Today in APIs: DropBox, Government and 18 New APIs

Adam DuVander
Feb. 23 2012, 06:12PM EST

One developer suggests that the DropBox API should be the universal transport API. Open government in the United States takes another step with the Regulations.gov API. Plus: thoughts on interest graphs, RESTful voices and 18 new APIs.

Should DropBox Be The Universal Transport API?

Nelson Minar says he's "3/4 serious" in his post about using DropBox to share between apps:

Many apps have data that fits the Dropbox sync paradigm. My note taking app, for instance, becomes “cloud enabled” by simply storing the notes file Dropbox. People run their own private (or shared) GitHub by storing their git software repos in Dropbox. Want your music to be accessible wherever you are? No need for a special service like iTunes Match or Spotify; just put your MP3 files in Dropbox.

I floated this idea on Twitter and got some pushback about how Dropbox wasn’t good enough, or not private enough, or had some other flaw compared to a custom transport protocol. I agree, it’s not perfect. But Dropbox works remarkably well and is a good match for a lot of products today. If you’re building something that needs a way to share data between machines, consider Dropbox for the transport.

Searchable, Sortable Regulations

Alex Howard shares about the Regulations.gov launch:

While the APIs will need to be explored and the data behind them assessed for quality, releasing regulatory data through APIs could in theory underpin a wide variety of new consumer-facing services.

This move comes as part of a larger effort towards e-rulemaking by this White House that will almost certainly be carried over into future administrations, regardless of the political persuasion of the incumbent of the Oval Office. In the 21st century, the country desperately needs a smarter approach to regulations.

Mark Headd then decided to take a closer look at the new API:

If governments are going to attract developers with APIs, then it makes sense to look at government APIs and evaluate them against other, more commonly used APIs to see how they stack up. People respond to incentives, and developers are no different – if an API is well documented and easy to use, developers are more likely to give it a try. The more “friction” an API has, the less likely it is to attract developers.

Headd follows the developer process, from sign up to coded app.

API News You Shouldn't Miss

18 New APIs

Today we had 18 new APIs added to our API directory including a business process service, online cron service, photo sharing and discovery service, e-commerce platform, email marketing service, Philippines demographic data service, semantic web conversion service, Swedish train schedule lookup service and text message marketing service. Below is more details on each of these new APIs.

Amazon SWFAmazon SWF API: Amazon SWF stands for Simple Workflow Service. The Amazon SWF API allows developers to set specific business processes and follow through each step. The API allows for automation of processes, including determining which step is currently being executed, correcting when a step gets broken and analyzing outcomes.

The service separates its actions into five categories: activities, deciders, workflow executions, administration and visibility. Regardless of category, developers can poll an activity's task, mark an activity task as complete, mark an activity task as failed, mark an activity task as canceled or record a "heartbeat," so the service knows a task is still active.

There are numerous actions within each category, such as retrieving, setting and removing workflows.

The API uses JSON-RPC (remote procedure call) to execute commands. The system returns data as JSON, as well.

CallMyAppCallMyApp API: CallMyApp is an online time-based 'callback' service meant to be used as an online 'cron' service. The service can be integrated into 3rd party applications to offer asynchronous, scheduled HTTP callbacks. This gives developers asynchronous 'cron' functionality without OS level dependencies. The API supports basic CRUD functions on callbacks. It uses RESTful calls and responses are in XML and JSON.

EyeEmEyeEm API: EyeEm is a photo-sharing and discovery app that allows users to connect through their photos. EyeEm categorizes photos by subject and location, and take the data from a user's own photos to recommend albums of similar photos of friends and like-minded people.

The API gives users access to much of EyeEm’s current functionality, including acquiring user photos, albums, favorites, likes and comments, as well as topics and photo tags by city, country, venue and by event. API documentation can be accessed upon registration.

Group CommerceGroup Commerce API: Group Commerce is an e-commerce platform that offers turn-key group buying solutions. The API provide functionality necessary for developers to communicate with the Group Commerce core platform. Functionality is currently split into two main parts. The first lets users perform complex tasks such as automating promotional emails, creating offer widgets, powering a mobile web application, or creating a fully-functional daily deal site that is hosted entirely within their own environment. The other gives developers an endpoint used by merchants to check their offers, mark vouchers as redeemed, and perform data collection on their customers. The API uses RESTful calls and responses are formatted in XML and JSON. An API key is required, developers should email apidocs@groupcommerce.com for access.

InformzInformz API: Informz offers email marketing solutions through their SaaS platform. They offer a range of services including customizable HTML templates and forms, A/B testing, social sharing tools, email targeting, and real-time reporting.

The Informz API enables developers to set up two-way AMS and CRM database integration with the Informz email marketing platform. After integrating their services, clients can take advantage of automated data retrieval methods, automatic synchronization, and more robust data gathering and manipulation techniques.

iPlant Semantic Web HTTPiPlant Semantic Web HTTP API: The service accepts JSON data conforming to a specified format and generates compliant RDF/XML OWL code that allows interaction via the semantic web. The input format is designed to support the needs of botanical science, so it ensures collection of data needed to create useful RDF/XML output data while users remain focused on botany rather than learning a new data format.

API methods support creation of RDF expressions for types and properties (entities and attributes) and generation of linked data graphs in a number of formats: Provider Description Graph (PDG), Resource Description Graph (RDG), and others. Documentation includes instruction in the required JSON input format.

KundoKundo API: Kundo is an online customer service platform that allows companies to interact with their customers and handle customer service issues.

The Kundo API allows developers to access and integrate the functionality of Kundo with other applications and to create new applications. Some example API methods include retrieving posts and comments from forums, sending messages, and managing account information.

LinguLabLinguLab API: The German-language service provides text analysis as a web service or as plug-ins to content management and word processing applications. It aims to improve text quality, promote understanding of written material, increase a user's positioning in search engine results.

API methods support specification of language for the text, submission of original draft text, delivery of quality rating, and retrieval of updated text. API processing includes revision of submitted draft and optimization for search engine effectiveness.

SERP-PSERP-P API: The service allows search against a database of research results in the areas of economic development and policy within the Philippines. Search results cite socioeconomic studies by many different research institutions, including government agencies and academic sources. Research by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) is highlighted. All listings provide abstracts, authors, focus of study, geographical coverage, and availability, and full text is available for some.

API methods support submission of an agency, and returned data list publications available from that source.

Simple Semantic Web Architecture and ProtocolSimple Semantic Web Architecture and Protocol API: The National Science Foundation, in conjunction with the University of Arizona, has made available the Simple Semantic Web Architecture and Protocol (SSWAP), an architectural protocol for semantic web services.

The SSWAP HTTP API exposes a set of URL's that can be used to convert JSON formatted text files into SSWQP OWL (a web ontology standard) Resource Description Framework (RDF) XML graphs. This functionality is intended to address the gap between the more common, non-semantic JSON format and a semantic, SSWAP-compliant document.

SSWAP is based on a Provider Description Graph (PDG), which is a human-readable, machine-parsable description of a provider of one or more semantic web services. Each service describes itself with a Resource Description Graph (RDG), invoked with a Resource Invocation Graph (RIG), and returned in a Resource Response Graph (RRG). Resources can be semantically discovered by sending a Discovery server a Resource Query Graph (RQG). All graphs, which are RDF-XML documents, follow this structural flow according to the SSWAP protocol. These graphs allow the semantic description of third-party idiosyncratic data and services using OWL semantic standards.

Tågtider TrainsTågtider Trains API: Train is a site that compares continuous traffic information direct from the Transport Administration of Sweden. The Train API is a way to lookup current train times and integrate this data with third party services. The API has methods for looking up stations, departures, arrivals, transfers and more. It uses RESTful calls and responses are formatted in XML and JSON.

TextHubTextHub API: TextHub offers mass text messaging solutions that allow organizations to send unlimited personalized text messages directly to opt-in customers. TextHub's SMS marketing platform allows clients to sign up for specific groups, schedule send times for messages, personalize messages with the recipient's name, and allow users to send replies for two-way communication. Clients can use TextHub's web interface to set up customized auto replies that are sent as a response to customer actions. TextHub also also provides a SMS based reminder service that can be used both internally and as a part of their marketing services.

TextHub's API allows developers to integrate TextHub functionality directly into existing web sites and applications, allowing for automated interactions with their marketing platform.

Unofficial BMYcharityUnofficial BMYcharity API: Bmycharity helps UK charities by providing online sponsorship and donation processing services. This unofficial API exposes the service's data including Donation amount, Gift Aid amount, Charity logo, Charity info, Donations (including messages, names, dates & amounts from users) and more. The API uses RESTful calls and responses are formatted in JSON.

Unofficial FitocracyUnofficial Fitocracy API: Fitocracy is a site that uses gamification elements and a social network to encourage users to engage with a fitness plan and track their progress. This unofficial API was developed to be used as a basic read-only API for profile data. Data provided includes variables such as user progress, groups, profile imagery, follow counts and more. The API uses RESTful calls and responses are formatted in JSON and JSONP.

Unofficial Virgin Money GivingUnofficial Virgin Money Giving API: Virgin Money Giving is a not-for-profit business by Virgin Money. It helps organizations with their online charity fundraising and donation efforts. This unofficial API exposes data such as Donation amount, Gift Aid amount, Charity, Donations (including messages, names, dates & amounts from users) and more. The API uses RESTful calls and responses are formatted in JSON.

World Bank ClimateWorld Bank Climate API: The World Bank Climate Change Knowledge Portal offers information, reports, and data about climate and climate change.

The World Bank Climate API allows developers to access and integrate the data from the Climate Change Knowledge Portal with other applications and to create new applications. Some example API methods include searching and returning climate data points, such as average temperatures and rainfalls and changes in averages and by countries.

YesMailYesMail API: YesMail is an enterprise email and web services company. YesMail offers email campaigns, automated and triggered emails, marketing emails, and other email services. YesMail also offers reporting and analysis tools for marketing campaigns.

The YesMail API allows developers to access and integrate the functionality of YesMail with other applications. Some example API methods include managing contact lists, sending email campaigns, and uploading content to emails. Public documentation is not available; API access is included with Yes Mail accounts.

Z33K Tournament APIZ33K Tournament API API: Z33K is an online platform that facilitates organized competitive gaming. The site provides access to thousands of tournaments for gamers, live streaming video, forums, and coaching services. Z33K's free custom tools allow individuals and organizations to run all aspects of online tournaments including player registration and management, match reporting and live bracket generation. The API gives developers programmatic access to online tournament data. It uses HTTP calls and responses are formatted in XML and JSON.

Adam DuVander -- Adam heads developer relations at Orchestrate, a database-as-a-service company. He's spent many years analyzing APIs and developer tools. Previously he worked at SendGrid, edited ProgrammableWeb and wrote for Wired and Webmonkey. Adam is also the author of mapping API cookbook Map Scripting 101.

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