Civic Commons, a non-profit initiative that aims to help cities and local governments harness the power of shared technologies and adapt to a more collaborative software development methodology, recently released an app store for civic technology called the Civic Commons Marketplace. Just last week, an alpha version of the Civic Commons Marketplace API for this app store was also released.
This blog post describes the recent history of the project:
On December 20, 2011 the Civic Commons Marketplace opened to the public. Over the past two weeks it’s grown from cataloguing 193 in 58 cities to 220 apps in 86 cities. Though still in beta, the Marketplace holds the promise of a comprehensive catalogue where anyone, anywhere can find what’s out there and figure out what’s working.
Initially, the marketplace API is simply focused on providing basic mechanisms for data input and output. Right out of the gate, however, it is useful for querying applications by civic function, provider organization or company, licensing requirements, and key functionality. The service is a restful API that supports session/cookie based authentication (not required for read access) and a full slate of output formatters including JSON, JSONP, XML, and YAML. Given that the API is still in alpha, the documentation and meta data explanations are complete and easy to follow. However, the developers are working on providing detailed documentation about the service’s core data model.
A recent Fast Company blog post about the Civic Commons Marketplace highlighted the fact that the service is actually a bit of a hybrid of an app store and an application database (think CrunchBase). As an app store, the Marketplace offers city officials, citizens, and other consumers of civic technology a first class way of finding and obtaining apps to suit their needs. As a well curated application database, the Marketplace helps all interested parties start to quantify how well the emerging government as a platform concept is being leveraged by cities and start-ups. The associated API further augments both of these functions. Suddenly it is a lot easier for developers to build tools that help users find useful civic oriented technology. In addition, the API makes it possible to mash up the data in the civic application database with other APIs to discover new opportunities for app development and where government data portals might be poorly servicing the app developer community.