The Web as Platform

John Musser
Aug. 20 2005, 07:35AM EDT

So what's the point of this site? Although still euphemistically 'in beta', the goal is to create a home page for Web 2.0 developers. Content to include news, reviews, comparisons, and examples. Formal APIs, unofficial APIs, and accidental APIs are all fair game. Anything 'programmatic' that's publicly accessible online from sources including Amazon, Google, eBay, Microsoft, del.icio.us, Feedster, UPS, EVDB, WeatherBug, indeed, Blogger and others.

Why? Because going From Web Page to Web Platform is a big deal. It's immature and a bit ill-defined but full of potential. To particpate as developers requires understanding, and to do that means to know what the parts are and how they work.

Another way to look at this site is from its genesis: frustration. I wanted to get the 'big picture' view of web apis. So I picked-up what books I could find (like Iverson). Pretty good start. But not enough. Then where? Everywhere. Despite what seems like an infinite number of social/web2.0 blogs, sites and businesses, I still couldn't find the 'go-to' place I wanted.

What do I think will be good to include here? Descriptions. Examples. Structured comparisons. Graphs. Relevancy. Debate. With what distinguishing traits?

  • Visual. I'd like the blog to be a bit more graphically rich than average: more diagrams, tables, images, and charts. This will take a bit more time and effort, but hopefully it will keep the signal-to-noise ratio high.
  • Timely. If there's a new, notable API released, it should get listed here ASAP.
  • Relevant. There are already more APIs than you can shake a debugger at. Some will get more space here than others. Just not enough of my bandwidth. But the key is to provide a sense of relevance, priority and impact (something that can get lost when looking at a set of del.icio.us tags on 'api').
  • Collaborative. Ideally something more than the usual comments and trackbacks. How can this be a more collective effort? Not sure on this just yet.
  • Educational. At the moment it appears there's no shortage of examples of people using the existing APIs. But frankly, to find them takes a lot of legwork. While I like the books, I don't always want to hit Google Hacks, then Amazon Hacks, to the next one. Although, if O'Reilly folks are listening, how about a hack-of-hacks meta-book...
  • Experimental. Is there a way to 'walk the walk' and make use of those APIs to make this site more useful?
  • Explorative. These new APIs have not only their expected usages but what can be really interesting is when smart, clever people build things that the API creators never envisioned. Not only can that happen with a single API but there's also taking multiple APIs to build a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Beyond nuts-and-bolts. Hit the all-important non-technical topics like legal issues (API restrictions or copyright gotchas) and ROI (where's the money?). At the end of the day these topics may moot the endless debates over REST v. SOAP.
  • Agenda-free but not opinion-free. Because really, what fun is a blog if there's no spice to it? But personally I do not really care if it's WS-*, REST, or morse-code-over-HTTP. Just ask good questions, be creative, solve problems.
John Musser

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John,
Excellent site. I just started The Web API Tracker blog - same meme, different skillset. We're on the same track and I hope we can grow and propser alongside eachother. I'm not aiming to be a developer resource of any kind - because I'm not a developer. My aim is to explain and evangelise the 'loosely coupled' web to entrepreneurs and others who need to know what is possible, but who won't be the ones building the stuff. Myself, I sit somewhere in the middle. Your database is killer and your attitude is perfect.
I would have emailed this to you, but I can't find an address on the site.
Best of luck.
Ivan
www.webapitracker.com

[...] I just subscribed to the ProgrammableWeb.com blog, described by the site&#8217;s creator (John Musser) here: So what’s the point of this site? Although still euphemistically ‘in beta’, the goal is to create a home page for Web 2.0 developers. Content to include news, reviews, comparisons, and examples. Formal APIs, unofficial APIs, and accidental APIs are all fair game. Anything ‘programmatic’ that’s publicly accessible online from sources including Amazon, Google, eBay, Microsoft, del.icio.us, Feedster, UPS, EVDB, WeatherBug, indeed, Blogger and others. [Hey John, don&#8217;t forget Yahoo! Actually, John does list Yahoo&#8217;s APIs here. - CD] [...]

This tag problem seems to me to be the main stumbling block towards tag/remix utopia.
ie no tagging standards (and i am not saying there should be)

I came across this problem in work when implementing a new intranet/KM system. We had hired a (very expensive) meta data consultanty type person (can't remember his proper title), spent weeks in workshops, months analysing ALL the existing intranet data, formulating meta data heirarchies. 18 months later I have moved on but the meta project hasn't.

The moral being "you say tomatoe, I say vegetable/fruit conundrum"

Well that's really the point of tags - it's a bottom-up solution, not a top-down hierarchical solution like your metadata consultant tried to implement.

So by "tags" I'm meaning the descriptive keywords/phrases that normal users add to their postings on delicious and flickr (to name the two most prominant examples).

A Clay Shirky quote emphasizes quite well that this is not a top-down thing driven by standards or expert knowledge:

"The mass amateurization of publishing means the mass amateurization of cataloging is a forced move."

<strong>Enter the IOS Matrix</strong>

I've shared some fun web mashups before, but they grow/improve daily. John Musser over at ProgrammableWeb has built a terrific resource site on Web 2.0 as a Platform -- or, as I see it, the coming Internet Operating System (IOS)...