This Monday, scraping-as-a-service provider Kimono Labs announced that it is being acquired by Palantir Technologies and will be shuttering its service.
According to a message posted on the Kimono Labs website, the Kimono team will be joining Palantir, a heavily-funded private software and services firm best known for its work with clients in the intelligence world and financial services industry.
"When we started two years ago, we had a clear mission to help people everywhere structure and extract value from data," the company explained. "Since then, we've realized that continuing to work in isolation on a general data collection tool simply won’t allow us to make the impact we want. When we met the team at Palantir, we were instantly excited by the potential — the incredible talent and access to the world's most important data problems – even if it meant no longer working on the kimono product."
That's bad news for the more than 125,000 developers that were using Kimono's hosted cloud service. And it gets worse: Kimono is shutting that service down at the end of February, giving developers just two weeks to make alternative plans.
In an effort to make things right with developers, Kimono has created an application, Kimono for Desktop, a Mac OSX and Windows app that will enable developers to do data collection using their local machines. It will also give them until March 31 to transfer the APIs they've created using Kimono to their local environments for use with Kimono for Desktop.
What About Best Practices?
There are few hard and fast rules for shutting down a cloud service, but it's hard not to argue that Kimono's two week notice fails the reasonable test. As one Hacker News poster commented, "That is an abysmally small amount of time and if I was a paying customer, [I'd] be furious."
While Kimono for Desktop, which is free, appears to be a respectable olive branch, a desktop app that cannot function in a server environment is unlikely to meet the needs of Kimono's most technical users, and may be too complex for Kimono's least technical users, some of whom may have selected the service because of its ability to integrate with Google Sheets, an integration that will also stop working at the end of the month.
What's not clear is why Kimono has to shutter its service so rapidly. Palantir has raised more than $2 billion in funding and was reportedly valued at as much as $20 billion late last year, so it ostensibly has the financial resources to support Kimono for a more period of time even if would prefer not to.
Alternative Solutions Abound
The good news for developers is that the thirst for data, coupled with the reality that not every company will offer an official API, has led to the development of a multitude of solutions that serve the same purpose as Kimono.
Hosted alternatives include ParseHub, import.io, Scrape.it, CloudScrape.com, Diffbot, Scrapinghub and Apifier. There are also a number of open-source solutions that developers can deploy themselves. These include Gargl, Portia, Scrapy and Apache Nutch.
For developers and businesses that opt to switch to a hosted service like Kimono, the Kimono shutdown is a reminder that outsourcing core functionality to a third-party cloud service is still a risky proposition. For that reason, it's no surprise that a number of the hosted providers, such as Scrapinghub, are behind the open-source solutions, giving the developers that use them slightly greater comfort that they can prepare for a Plan B scenario well before it happens.