Guardian Open Platform

I’m not bowled over much these days. But Guardian Open Platform is a chasmic leap into the future. It is a work of simplistic beauty that I’m sure will have a dramatic impact in the news market. The Guardian is already a market leader in the online space but Open Platform is revolutionary. It makes all of their major competitors look timid.

Governments should be doing this. Governments will be doing it. The question is how long will it take us to catch up.

25 thoughts on “Guardian Open Platform”

  1. With regards Government doing something like this (which would be impressive to say the least) I have a question:

    Do you think it is more likely to happen in a centralised, top down, mandated manner. Or by being put together at a lower level – collecting together existing data, wrapping them in just enough structure to get them out the door, and promoting the concept inwardly?

    I’m thinking about the difference between something like the Guardian project here (which presumably involved design and publication of the API and data) and BBC Backstage project (which acted more as a curator and evangelist of APIs)

  2. All I can say I wish you luck. I’d imagine the savings in letting people with the know how fulfil their own needs, rather than contracting some company to build something only right for them, would be astronomical.

  3. This is very exciting. It looks like guardian unlimited rather boldly turning itself into a (branded) conduit instead of a news provider.

    I’m also tempted to post links to the data sets on Daily mail fora in the hope people will look at the raw data themselves (and realise just how often the mail is talking b*llocks).

  4. I agree Tom, I think this is a big move for The Guardian. In our office we were discussing who would be the first in the UK to do this after NY Times launched their APIs. Our money was on The Guardian, particularly after the hacker days they’ve already held.

    I think this will benefit them in several ways. Firstly, they are creating outsourced marketing teams for their content. Each application that utilises the content/data has it’s own audience that will be exposed to Guardian content. Secondly the existing audience of The Guardian will benefit because many applications will enhance the experience of (ad demonstrated by some of the apps built on their hacker day Lastly but most importantly for other people looking to do the same, I’m reading that there are plans to tie this into their ad network.

    I hope other media groups follow suit soon and governments too. On the later point, from what I read about the rewired state event ( there’s already a massive appetite for it with people already scraping the data they need to build their apps.

  5. In response to Luke’s comment above about the costs of a company developing this for the government (or any other organisation), I don’t think the costs would be astronomical, when either considering the benefits (transparency & commerce-wise) or comparing costs of other government IT projects. The company I work for would love to be involved in this.

    Developing standards compliant APIs and iterating them with constant feedback from the developer community would also mean that they can easily be used by any developer not just the team that built it.

    Gareth, I think your question is very valid. I think it could maybe start with work at the lower level or in a particular area to prove the concept and then the framework/model could be applied more widely once developed and proven.

  6. > The Guardian “woven into the fabric of the Internet”.
    > How can we do this for the UK Gov?

    Is this a technical problem or an organisational incentives problem?

    For the right organisational incentives, do we need to dismantle the trading funds, and get rid of crown copyright over government data? Make the organisational goal dissemination of data for onward re-use, not profit from the sale of data.

    Technically, to weave government in to the “fabric of the Internet” we need a permanent, semantic URL for every entity that is of interest to government, be it a school, hospital, member of parliament, or registered company. These URLs are published subject indicators around which both government and external parties can start building meaningful services.

  7. I agree, governments will be doing it. In the US, the Obama administration is already discussing these kinds of developments with some of the best geeks in Silicon Valley – I suspect their success will determine how, and when, other governments follow.

  8. I hate even having to write this, as it’ll only sound (probably correctly) like sour grapes.

    But in my time working for ONS, 2002-4, I warned this day would come: when a commercial third party would supplant them as the main online source for public data. At first glance, half (maybe more) of the datasets in the Guardian’s data store look like being government-compiled.

    If they – or indeed, anyone else – should become the web’s preferred supplier of UK government data, it’s not a comfortable position. We need to trust them to be absolutely conscientious about presenting a complete picture; and religious in their processes for updates and corrections. Somehow they need to maintain a separation between their natural political slant, and the (presumed?) sanctity of the data… and be seen to do so.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted the Guardian have done this. I’m just sorry they had to. Government could have got there years ago, and should have done. I hope we don’t live to regret it.

  9. Actually Tom, after further investigation, I’ve got a surprisingly upbeat answer to the question you posed. On the data side anyway, Government can catch up to the Guardian by lunchtime.

    What the Guardian have done is actually embarrassingly simple, amounting to little more than a bit of copy and paste. (Well, maybe that’s a bit harsh, but…) So, by offering a tangible realisation of the threat suddenly facing ONS, and a precedent which shows how easy it is to do, this may prove to be ONS’s salvation.

    More on my own blog at

  10. Quote the Grauniad API page : “Access will be granted on a limited basis.”

    They have seemingly not quite understood the meaning of the word “Open” nor indeed the idea or spirit of the semantic web.


  11. I couldn’t agree more. For far too long news organisations have been too protective of their content and data and have failed to take advantage of the long tail possibilities that a more liberal approach engenders. For Government, the idea of making data sets available to the general public would be a ground-breaking move. For example, if there’s a transport consultation in your area, you could access the raw data set to produce your own statistics on speed and usage. It’s a powerful and attractive idea.

  12. Thanks for great comments and ideas. And apologies for my dilatory approach to comment moderation this week. Been a tad busy.

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