In news that surprises nobody, Goodreads last week quietly announced the deprecation of their public APIs. And I mean really quietly – the only people who were told about this were those unfortunate enough to have their existing API keys disabled without warning. Other than a small banner at the top of the API docs which mentions vague "plans to retire these tools", nobody else appears to have heard anything from Goodreads, including those whose API keys remain active. So far it seems any key unused for 30 days has been disabled.
So this is an "announcement" much in the way a windshield announces its presence to bugs on a highway, and with the same consequences: dead bugs. Some developers have taken to the API discussion boards and blogs, but the overall impression I'm getting is grim acceptance. Really the surprising thing is how long it took them: Amazon has been in charge at Goodreads for almost 8 years now, and I think we've all been expecting this to come at some point.
So why now? What's changed? Well, the fact is the market's changing – and Goodreads isn't. Alternative options are starting to emerge, and since Goodreads has forgotten how to innovate, it wants to use its market position to stifle innovation instead.
The sad thing is it really only hurts the hobbyist projects and Goodreads users themselves. Anybody seriously attempting to compete with Goodreads is well aware of the Amazon-shaped elephant in the room and is likely prepared. It's the users and the hackers that this move will harm, and if anything it further reinforces the need for viable alternatives.
Personally I'm going to continue pouring my efforts into building Oku. I'm already using it to keep track of my reads & collections, along with a few thousand beta testers. I'm really excited by our plans and think we have the right team to execute, but we also need a shift in consumer behaviour.
The web has to mature beyond advertising as a business model. For this to happen people are going to have to open their wallets, pay for the services they use, and support independent businesses. That's how we build a web where indies can thrive - one that's more village centre than financial centre. I think the shift is underway.
PS: here's my own Oku profile. You should probably use our Goodreads importer while our API key works, eh?