Rambling About APIs

I've been thinking about turning my Amazon scraping scripts into an XML API to their book information (I call these SCRAPIs), but it could never be as reliable as Amazon offering their own API. Plus I'd have to keep up with their page design changes. It's fun to think about rogue APIs to web sites, though.

I wonder when/if eBay will open up an interface to developers. I bet there are thousands of home brewed scripts out there to scrape eBay for auction information. If they had an API, I could see specialized auction sites popping up with their own design...and eBay would always get a cut of the transactions. Perhaps some sites would like to offer auctions, but they don't have the resources to develop their own software, and they don't want to send people to eBay. Yet they have an audience that would be willing to participate. The value in offering an API is extending services to places they can't go today. And in the ideas generated outside of the company...those most interested in the service become the development team. It's sort of like widespread prototyping.

This can be scary for companies. Michael Schrage said, "Prototype-driven innovation ends up promoting a radical deconstruction of existing organizational charts..." In the sense that teams form around prototypes, rather than teams being put together specifically to build them. I think on the outside, through an API, this behavior works to the company's advantage. It attracts people to their technology, it brings people in with fresh ideas, and it discourages politics that have formed around ideas. If you think about an API as widespread prototyping, this interview with Michael Schrage about "shared spaces" has some great ideas; even though he's mostly talking about working within an organization.

Comments

I too have my own Amazon SCRAPI which I've been using for a while, and have considered it releasing to the public as a rouge API. However, like you, I have trouble keeping up with the web site changes.

The other big problem is that I work for them and they'd probably frown on me for doing such a thing.

One of the most creative uses of Amazon scraping I've seen so far is Delicious.org which scrapes a local radio station for playlists, and then scrapes amazon for album info, combining the two into the radio of the future.

Good luck with your stuff. I love what you're doing.
Thanks, erik. Maybe you can drop a comment in the suggestion box: Product Detail XML API Please.
I have, actually, a couple times. I think this new associates development is very promising and that the best way to get a more complete API is to leave feedback about this existing service.
eBay *does* have an XML API to their database; They've discussed it a few times in passing. Most recently it was mentioned in the context of their supoprt of Microsoft when the .NET platform was announced. Given that the My Services part of .NET has been revised, it'll be interesting to see if eBay decides to make that API open now.
eBay has an API which is not built on top of SOAP or XML-RPC. It is RPC, but using their own schema.
eBay is probably charging big bucks for their API...and someone who wants to use it has to establish a business relationship. Sounds like they need to establish a special technology relationship, too, if it's not built on an existing standard.
Ebay also has a network of semi-athorized and fully authorized standalone apps that allow power-listing of auction items: for those diehards who sell hundreds of items a day on ebay. "Mister Lister" is ebay's own app, and there are a number of others. Don't know if they all use some known API or a SRAPI.
Discussion of ebay api and liscensing fees

http://www.auctionbytes.com/pages/abn/y02/m02/i04/s01
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