Friday, August 01, 2008

Free Web Services API to Common Knowledge

Introducing the LibraryThing Web Services API.

The API will eventually do many things.

For starters it includes all of the data in LibraryThing's Common Knowledge project, our groundbreaking "fielded wiki" for interesting book information (see original blog post). It includes fields like series, important characters, important places, author dates, author burial places, agents, edits, etc. If you're interested in building or enhancing book-data applications, this should be very interesting.

Common Knowledge is always in progress, but the results so far have been quite impressive. Members have made over 500,000 edits, and certain data types have become exceedingly useful and comprehensive. I'm particularly proud of our Series coverage (eg., Star Wars), better—we think—than any commercial series data. 

Oh, and it's free! The data is made available under the highly permissive Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license.

Architecturally, the Web Services API is a straightforward REST XML-based API.  The back-end is modular, allowing us to easily expand the available methods in the future. It's request and response styles were modeled closely on Flickr's API—Chris is a big fan—so it should make it easier to find similar sample code. The documentation resembles theirs too.

Kudos to Chris for his work on this and let us know what you think (here).

Update: The other big announcement—another data release—won't be happening today. Too much to do!

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Blogger Unknown said...

Some of these new features are very cool and useful to computer language programmers. Most of us just want rich features without knowing about all the underpinnings of esoteric popular features like API.

API is not common knowledge

8/01/2008 11:24 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

The point of providing APIs is two-fold:

1. We made a commitment to give back to the community. Not everyone cares, but some do, so we want to honor that.
2. APIs allow others to develop interesting features on top of LibraryThing content. So, you'll get your rich features—somewhere else, or we'll do it locally after we see someone do something interesting elsewhere.

8/01/2008 11:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, but us data heads are geeking out on this. Thanks Tim!


8/02/2008 2:09 AM  
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8/04/2008 8:20 AM  
Blogger lcfink said...

I, for one, am thrilled! This represents a major step forward for those of us who want to build and link new functionality from our own data with that in LT!

Rock on guys!

8/05/2008 1:57 PM  
Blogger lcfink said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/05/2008 1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A request for the code jockeys and magic-makers: Bring on the WordPress Plugins, please! Would love to see something like the Amazonify plugin (,WP-Amazon Reloaded (, Andrew Scott's hReview plugin (, or G-tools ( built to pull in LibraryThing data! (I use G-Tools' hReview function to get a microformatted review that includes some extra Amazon data, rearrange the output to my liking, and insert it into my blog. Not the easiest, but I like the results.) It would be great to be able to easily mark up an hReview in a WordPress Blog, and enhance it with covers, reader ratings, local title-related event venues, fun facts from Common Knowledge, or whatever! Add support for remembering a referrer's affiliate ID's if users click through from the LT book page to Abe, Amazon, BookSense/IndieBound, B&N, etc., and legions of WordPress book bloggers could be working for LibraryThing! ;)

8/07/2008 6:23 PM  
Blogger Ron Pavellas said...

Please, the jargon is beyond me. Where is there a glossary of terms for:

Flickr's API
... and any other terms that are not standard English usage. I used to be a geek, but that was a long time ago. I'm and old geek and haven't kept up.

8/16/2008 2:24 AM  

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