Public APIs have given rise to applications that we could not have imagined a few years back. All the stakeholders in the API ecosystem have benefited, right from organizations providing public APIs, to API consumers and the end user that has been given mashups that combine the best of many APIs. However positive this may sound, it is important to look at instances where APIs end up playing spoilsport in their own little way. This post tries to explore some of them.
Computational knowledge engineWolfram Alpha has just become more accessible from a variety of applications. Wolfram Alpha has thrown open access to its API to all developers with version 2.0 of its Wolfram Alpha API, allowing you to integrate its results into a variety of sources of web, desktop, enterprise and mobile applications.
Life on the web is full of search terms and human filtering. Even good results often require some effort to determine which has the information we seek. There are several services attempting to help with this problem and they’re making their applications available via API.
The internet is the perfect medium for matching supply with demand. You can find your next freelance job or, as Craigslist has been singled out for, find just about anything else (if you know the right euphemisms). Now, with Data Marketplace, you can request or provide datasets covering anything you can think of.
Microsoft is one of the first–and certainly the largest of–customers of Wolfram Alpha’s commercial API (our Wolfram|Alpha API profile). For math and nutritional searches, Microsoft’s Bing now uses Wolfram results.
Structured data has an open platform, thanks to a new startup aptly named Factual. At first glance, it seems like Excel on the web. However, Factual is more database-oriented, with joining and filtering built-in. Plus, sharing and discussing the data is an integral part of the experience. Most functions on the site, including both reading and writing data, can also happen via the Factual API.
Wolfram Alpha, the up-and-coming “answer engine” that we reported on back in May, has just released an API that developers have been awaiting since this spring. The new RESTful API provides access to the vast stores of data and computational knowledge available through the Wolfram Alpha project (technical details at our Wolfram Alpha API profile).
While Google leads the way in web search and Yahoo leads the way in answers, many upstart services are attempting to help you make decisions by giving you smarter answers to your questions. Microsoft has billed its new search offering Bing as both a “decision engine” and an “answer engine.” Now there’s Hunch, a new start-up founded by Flickr’s Caterina Fake, which also aims to be a decision engine, but using a very different model. By first asking the user questions ranging from food preferences to pet peeves, Hunch tries to provide answers to questions that best match the user’s interests based on crowdsourced data collected from other users.
As far as web search tools go, few have generated as much hype as Wolfram Alpha. The service, which bills itself as a “computational knowledge engine,” differs from search engines such as Google, in that it does not return lists of web pages. Rather, Wolfram Alpha attempts to calculate answers to user queries. For example, a query of “los angeles county median household income” will return the result “$43,518.”