CKAN API: Open Data In The Hands of The Masses

Mark Boyd, June 13th, 2013

CKANAn independent, open source platform aimed at making it easier for governments and businesses to publish open data has released a new version of their API. The CKAN API allows access to catalog listings of open datasets, full-text searches, and sharing of statistics on open data usage.

While several governments are releasing their data via APIs, the global not-for-profit agency Open Knowledge Foundation is encouraging data publishers to consider using the Comprehensive Knowledge Archive Network (CKAN) platform. CKAN provides a sleek design interface that can be branded with any business or government’s livery to create an easy-to-use access point into a company, city, state, or nation’s open data catalog. Most recently, the US Government has upgraded its data catalog at data.gov to make use of the new CKAN 2.0 platform.

CKAN API

To coincide with the recent version upgrade of CKAN, the Open Knowledge Foundation has released the new CKAN API (version 3), which represents a complete overhaul of the API. As part of this overhaul, CKAN has extended the power of the API, as Open Knowledge’s Community Co-ordinator explains:

CKAN no longer uses REST for its recommended API, which is now based on remote procedure calls (RPC). The previous REST APIs continue to be available but we found it difficult to offer access to the full functionality of CKAN via the REST API, as REST APIs are very orientated to resources and not so much about processes. A major constituency for the CKAN API are site developers and content providers, rather than re-users, who need more hands-on access to its full functionality.

The CKAN API provides access to the suite of stored open data within a CKAN platform, as well as catalog listings on the datasets, full-text searches, and stats on dataset usage. So, for example, it is possible to query the entire data.gov catalog using the CKAN API. The API is also available as an RSS/ATOM feed detailing recent activity and additions to the CKAN stored data. The whole catalog can also be downloaded as CSV or JSON files.

While the publicly available API is a read API, authorized use can be created for open data owners to allow for writing and updating of datasets and metadata directly to a CKAN platform.

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