Movie rental site Netflix announced an API to access its massive catalog of films and movie people. Applications written on the API can also let users login using OAuth to access their movie queues.
In the past Netflix has fostered its developer community by providing private feeds and sponsoring the Netflix prize for improving its recommendation system. When the API announcement came through, I had to think twice because it seemed unlikely that Netflix didn’t already have an API.
Surprisingly, this is the first official API from Netflix, though developers previously went as far as creating a third party API. It looks like the wait was worth it, as Netflix has opened up its database of movies, actors, and directors. Applications can also manage a user’s queue and link directly to instant viewing, meaning developers can create entirely different ways of accessing the most common Netflix.com features.
As I’ve alluded to, the great thing here is its catalog of movies. Search by title and you get a list of results with information about movies that match. In addition, Netflix provides a list of several related movies for each search result. Super cool.
Like the recently-released Evernote API, Netflix uses the OAuth standard for authenticating users. Major props to Netflix for embracing this standard, a big step toward distributing services across the web.
As part of the release, Netflix created a Firefox extension, Flixo, to browse the API without having to write code. This is a great way to get a feeling for how to use the API. It shows XML results from the API, so it’s for developers. It might be a little buggy, but it’s better than trying out API calls manually when you just want to see what the results will be.