All posts tagged ‘API’

File Under: APIs, Social, Web Services

Twitter API Is Becoming Far More than Just an API for Twitter

Twitter’s API has spawned hundreds of mashups and third party software apps, but now it’s growing even further — outside sites have begun mimicking an API to piggyback on Twitter clients.

It started last week with a clever hack by WordPress contributors which allows users to post and read their blogs through third-party Twitter apps like Tweetie 2 for the iPhone.

Now Tumblr has joined in on the fun, allowing you to post and read Tumblr blogs through any third-party Twitter app that allows you to change the API endpoint.

The last bit is key, since while both WordPress and Tumblr have mimicked the Twitter API, you still need to make sure your Twitter client can be manually pointed to the correct URL, i.e. or, rather than

We tested both the WordPress and Tumblr clones of the Twitter API using Tweetie 2 for the iPhone and had no problems setting up and connecting to either service. There are, however, some shortcomings — for example, if your WordPress of Tumblr stream is primarily photos, you won’t see much through the Twitter client. Also, because WordPress and Tumblr both offer infinitely more posting options than Twitter — for instance, uploading photos — the experience of either through a Twitter client is sub par. Still, if you’ve been looking for a good way to blog quick links or short posts on the go, the new API support combined with a mobile Twitter client makes an excellent option.

Dave Winer recently called the development third-party support for the Twitter API an open standard in the making. While we think he might be right, we’re not sure it makes it a good candidate for a de facto standard yet.

For one thing, Twitter is a private company with its own goals for its own API. In order to really become a standard, Twitter would need to freeze its API, ensuring that it doesn’t change. Since Twitter has been doing interesting (and sometimes backwards-incompatible) things with it, like adding geotagging support and changing how replies are handled, and we don’t want to see that stop.

There’s also a very good chance Twitter doesn’t want to freeze its API, which leaves the web with a proprietary API that could change at any given moment — hardly a stable platform on which to build the future of microblogging. In short, WordPress and Tumblr’s recent clones of the Twitter API are just hacks. What Winer and others are hoping is that the hacks will evolve into something more.

It’s important to remember two things. This isn’t the first time an API has been cloned, nor is it the first time a proprietary API has been proposed as a good candidate for a de facto standard. Social bookmarking site Ma.gnolia cloned the Delicious API to great success (before Ma.ngolia went offline) and the OAuth protocol emerged out of a desire to create an open, cross-site authentication platform that mimicked Flickr Auth and other systems.

The web wants a simple, cross-site API that allows basic functionality common to many popular web services — posting, reading and following.

We e-mailed web standards advocate Chris Messina and asked where he thinks this is heading. He points out that there’s already OpenMicroBlogging, an open standard that allows different messaging hubs to route microblogging messages between users in a near real-time time frame.

Unfortunately, OpenMicroBlogging has thus far failed to catch on. Which is why the Twitter API is appealing, because it has caught on and enjoys a wide ecosystem of mashups, desktop apps and mobile clients. It only makes sense that other publishing services — like WordPress and Tumblr — want to be involved in that ecosystem.

As Messina points out in his e-mail, and as has been argued by Dare Obasanjo’s post on, this creates an interesting moral dilemma for Twitter. The company can either embrace this new growth and continue to nurture the efforts of the community, and thus cede total control over its own API, or just ignore it and continue developing its API with aims on improving its own business, even if it breaks the tools built by outside developers.

Whether that ecosystem will remain closely tied to Twitter or perhaps grow beyond it to some kind of standard remains to be seen. But in the mean time, at least you have yet another way to consume your favorite WordPress and Tumblr sites.

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File Under: APIs, HTML5, Web Apps

HTML5 File API Brings Drag-and-Drop File Uploads to the Web

The coming HTML5 specification has several tools that take HTML well beyond its humble beginnings as a markup language and give web developers some powerful scripting tools. The W3C, the group that oversees the development of HTML5, has just published a draft spec of yet another powerful tool — the HTML5 File API.

The File API is designed to improve the way browser-based webapps handle file uploads, and it even makes it possible to create pages with drag-and-drop upload fields. The draft defines a new input option, <input type="file">, for handling uploads.

Even better, the API gives developers a way to hook into the upload data and display upload progress and other information.

The downside is that, because it’s so new, very few browsers have implemented the File API. The furthest along appears to be Firefox, which supports enough of the File API to have created a drag-and-drop demo. If you’ve got a copy of the latest alpha build of Firefox 3.6, try dragging a file from your desktop into the black box on the demo page.

Still, while widespread support might be a ways off, the File API promises to give web apps a way to behave a bit more like their desktop cousins — drag-and-drop support, the ability to handle multiple simultaneous uploads and show upload progress — all without the need for Flash or other outside tools.

For more details on what you can do with the HTML5 File API and how to access its methods using JavaScript, head over to Ajaxian, which has an in-depth look at the new API and its methods.

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File Under: Uncategorized

Find Your Neighbor’s Videos Online

The YouTube team released an example mashup that merges Gears geolocation and the video geo search. Using the demo application, you can find nearby videos based on your location, maybe even your neighbor’s Firefly tribute movie.

The technology grabbing the videos is YouTube’s new geotag searchable API. With a latitude/longitude pair and a keyword, the service spits back a list of videos.

So, where do those coordinates come from? YouTube’s example uses Google Gears’ new geolocation feature. There are a few different implementations, and a developing standard for accessing location. My JavaScript geolocation tutorial covers the bases, including the similar Geode plugin baked into the next version of Firefox.

The best part about the example application is that the source code is available. I wish everyone did this. It sure makes picking up new technologies easier.

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File Under: Multimedia

YouTube Shows Off API With ActionScript 3 Demo

YouTube API demoEmbedding videos played a huge role in YouTube’s success. These days you can programmatically embed a video in both a web page and your own Flash application. YouTube released its player API back in March, but was missing examples for Flash developers.

YouTube created a great proof-of-concept demo for its player API and open sourced the code.

The example also includes the JavaScript API, for an all-in-one demo. For more information on the JavaScript version, read our YouTube API tutorial, which shows how to embed and control the chromeless player in your page with JavaScript.

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File Under: Uncategorized

Netflix API Gets Love From Plaxo

When Netflix released its API, I said the coolest thing was that it gave developers access to a database of movies and actors. It also uses OAuth to let third parties create applications that build off of a user’s account.

Plaxo has done just that, by adding ratings integration into its Pulse social network. When you add it to your Pulse account, you are taken to Netflix to login, so Plaxo doesn’t get your login details. Then you choose which of your Pulse contact groups you want to give access. You can just make the ratings public, but then we’ll know your affinity for Harold and Maude (and I totally get it).

The Plaxo team got this Netflix integration done fast, which Plaxo credits to the way Netflix created the API:

“Netflix chose to build it with existing, open standards. Specifically, they’re using OAuth to let users grant Plaxo access to their non-public data, and they’re using protected ATOM feeds for the ratings (along with RESTful APIs for getting additional data). Since Plaxo already knows how to crawl ATOM feeds, and we already know how to take users through the OAuth flow, it was trivial for us for hook this all up.”

This is good stuff from Plaxo, too, which has a bit of a reputation to get over. Now attempting to be known for openness, to many Plaxo is still seen as a spammer due to emails that made us update our friends’ address books.

There are probably many who wouldn’t join Plaxo, let alone give it access to their Netflix queue, but for those willing to give them a shot, it looks like the sort of place where you’ll see fun new features sooner than later.

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