The Europeana Search API and Search Widget

Today at Europeana we publically launched our Search API and search widget. Most of the relevant information about the API can be found on our website and on EuropeanaLabs so I won’t go into the basics of it all. A simulated Q&A might be in order though judging from the reactions on Twitter. Ask more question in the comments and I’ll answer as best I can!

Q: Why a Search API? Why a search widget?

A: Because we can’t and don’t expect all users to find their way to our portal to access our content. We need to find ways to get our content to them. With the API we also hope that others can develop what we didn’t think of or couldn’t do ourselves!!! Check out our strategy (PDF) and especially the Distribution and Engagement tracks.

Q: So why such restrictive Terms of Use then?

A: Our terms of use are based on our current Data Agreements with our data providers. Those agreements do explicitly exclude commercial use. Based on the input of some of our data providers we’ve also chosen a conservative reading of the Data Agreement and limit the use to the Europeana thematic network partners (present and future), Europeana group project consortium members, Council Content Providers and Aggregators Council members and all direct or indirect providers of metadata to Europeana. In short we call them Europeana partners and in total there’s about 1500 organisations among them.

Q: But you don’t have any commercial network members! So why the non-commercial clause?

A: We actually do have commercial network members. The clause is to avoid them having unfair competetive advantages compared to any other commercial entity.

Q: Why a public API website if it’s only for a limited group of potential users?

A: We did discuss this internally, but decided to have the API webpages and technical documentation in the open. The API is no secret service and we need above all to be able to show in public the added value of Europeana having an API. Our belief is that having the API gallery and documentation in the open will be our best argument for opening up the API further.

Q: So when can everyone else access the API?

A: Short answer: I don’t know. Longer answer: It’s no secret that Europeana wants to have clearer and more open licences attached to our metadata. The reason is so we can open up the API wider and to publish our metadata as Linked Open Data. We believe that will ultimately bring much more added value to partners and end-users both. However, we can only do that if we have the proper agreements in place with our data providers.

Q: Why an API based on OpenSearch?

A: We wanted to get a simple (as in simple to adopt) standards based API out there. Based on actual use and feedback we can then decide on whether we need to build e.g. a custom REST-API or just upgrade our OpenSearch API.

Q: Do you have plans to develop the API further?

A: Yes, based on API-user feedback we plan for one development iteration this year. What to add or change? So far we have ideas and beta developer suggestions for e.g. JSON responses, geosearches and time interval searches and we also intend to be able to serve object data in RDF once we’ve transitioned to the Europeana Data Model. If you have other ideas don’t be shy!

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