In a similar vein, there was a bit of stir this week when the small music web site YottaMusic had to shut down because they were no longer allowed to use undocumented Rhapsody APIs. Created in 2006, YottaMusic used these undocumented APIs to build a new web interface on top of the underlying Rhapsody music subscription service. But as TechCrunch reports "This past May, however, Rhapsody contacted YottaMusic and asked them to start using its public APIs exclusively or shut down the service entirely. Since YottaMusic depended on the non-public API for its Rhapsody interface, and since adopting the standard Rhapsody player would have erased most of the application’s value, the startup ultimately felt forced to fold and shut down operations...While founder Luke Matkins says that he understands Rhapsody was perfectly within its rights to take such actions, it’s obviously an unfortunate turn of events for YottaMusic’s 10,000 visitors per day." The screenshot below is what you see on the site today:
Undocumented APIs are notorious for changing or being removed, thus part of the reason they're undocumented in the first place. In this case you can learn more in a well articulated TechCrunch comment from Rhapsody GM Ben Rotholtz, who notes that:
As a side note, there are exceptions to the APIs being just a subset of a broader site's service: take for example some of the Amazon services like S3 or EC2, where the API is the service, or the case where the most or all of the service is built on their APIs, as with Flickr and Eventful.