Infochimps is one of the early champions of the data market business, and one that I’ve followed for several years.
As I mentioned in my last post on the topic, the company has recently begun to pivot towards delivery of their (compelling) Enterprise Cloud big data analysis offering, with the company’s data market origins slipping further and further down the home page.
And now, it seems that they’re taking the next step. A friend drew my attention to Infochimps’ stated intention to stop providing API access to a number of data sets from today, 28 February.
Historically, Infochimps has offered several ways to access data through their marketplace;
- 5,731 datasets, hosted by Infochimps and made available for download
- 5,303 datasets, catalogued by Infochimps but made available for download somewhere else
- 14 (yes, fourteen) datasets, available for online query via Infochimps’ API
There’s no sign (yet) that the 10,000 or more data sets catalogued by Infochimps and available for download from themselves or their partners are going away. The 13 datasets affected (a dataset of 60,000 UFO sightings will still be available via API) represent a mere drop in the ocean, and maybe we shouldn’t care. But it’s the fact that this decision affects datasets with an API that should be of most concern. Almost anyone can stick some data on the web for download and call themselves a data market. It’s even easier to simply create a list of pointers to data held elsewhere.
But data with an API is more challenging, more useful, and more filled with potential. Data that can be queried by an API can be easily incorporated into third-party applications. It can be used. It can be combined and recombined with data from other sources, without having to find, download and manipulate entire datasets yourself. You (or your app) transmits a query, finds the data, and acts upon it. Imagine if you were out in a strange city, searching for a nearby coffee shop. You could query an API and get the answer (an address for the nearest coffee shop), or you could download a spreadsheet of coffee shops and scroll through it until you found the one you wanted. Which is better?
Infochimps’ latest move suggests that the company is accelerating its gradual transition from one business model to another. Their new offerings are intriguing and useful, but it would be a shame to lose this early – and rare – example of a good data market.
After Kasabi’s loss last year, and with a notable lack of new entrants to the space, the pressure really is mounting on DataMarket, Factual, and the few remaining players to show real and lasting value.
I contacted Infochimps last night, and will update this post with any relevant information they provide.