Towards A More Robust And Powerful CrunchBase API

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As many of you know, TechCrunch’s startup database, CrunchBase, makes a lot of its data freely available through an easy-to-use REST API, which launched about four years ago. We make much of the data accessible, including all entity listings (companies, people, financial orgs, and products), individual profile information, and a blog post endpoint which returns all posts written by TechCrunch on any given entity. In addition, a search query endpoint helps you to sift through data as well. Below is a sample of some of the API calls currently supported:

http://api.crunchbase.com/v/1/people.js
http://api.crunchbase.com/v/1/company/twitter.js
http://api.crunchbase.com/v/1/financial-organization/union-square-ventures.js
http://api.crunchbase.com/v/1/search.js?query=reddit
http://api.crunchbase.com/v/1/people/posts?first_name=Ron&last_name=Conway

The CrunchBase API has been open, free, and without rate limits, which probably explains its success. As Fred Wilson points out here, the value of CrunchBase stems from being open and peer-produced. TechCrunch has made this data easily available so developers can create interesting apps, mashups, and analysis. Currently, there are over 50 million data calls per month, which suggests to us that CrunchBase is working well, so well in fact that we have to think carefully about the future of CrunchBase and its ecosystem.

As a result, we’ve decided to collect information to help us understand the API’s usage and plan for the future of the API. We want to cultivate relationships with our third-party developers and provide improved documentation and developer support. Simultaneously, we see the need to track the API’s growth so we make sure we can scale with the demand.

With that in mind, we are partnering with Mashery to use their API management solution. Mashery will help us migrate the CrunchBase API to its proxy infrastructure so we can measure call volumes and make the API scale better. On Friday, 8/31, we will cutover to Mashery’s servers. To end users, this cutover will have no visible impact.

Three weeks following this cutover, on September 21st, 2012, TechCrunch and Mashery will also launch a developer portal where developers can register and publish their their apps, find documentation and IO Docs, and participate in a forum with CrunchBase team.

The API will remain open and free throughout these changes, but we are also going to nudge and eventually require developers to adopt access keys to use the API. We will move through this transition cautiously with clear cut goals in mind: 1) not break existing applications and uses of the API and 2) ensure uninterrupted service of any applications. We will not mandate use of access keys at the outset and will give developers ample time (on the order of months) to bake access keys into applications. We will share more as we iron out the details.

To recap, on 8/31, all API calls will be routed through Mashery’s proxy servers but there will be no impact to existing applications. The migration should be completely transparent. Please continue using the API as you were. If for any reason, your application is adversely impacted, let us know at cbapi@techcrunch.com and we will look into it immediately.