8 Search APIs for Hack Days

 by Martin Belam, 14 November 2008

I spent most of yesterday at The Guardian's first ever internal Hack Day. I gave one of the short five minute 'lightning' talks that got the event kicked off. I wanted to outline a few of the search related APIs out there that might prove useful as people put their hacks together. Here's the written down version...

Google AJAX Search API

I'll start with the big one - the Google AJAX Search API. This lets you put Google Search in your web pages with JavaScript. As well as the web index, you can embed search boxes and results from blog and news search, access the information in Google Local, and search over video content from YouTube.

Google Ajax Api

Google AJAX Search API Wizards

If, like me, the last bit of JavaScript coding you did was to put a scrolling marquee in the furniture of the Netscape browser back in the late '90s, then you'll be relieved to know that Google offer a second approach to their API. Without having to know anything about how the code works, you can build custom search pages and features for your hack.

Google Ajax Wizards

The tool takes the 'wizard' approach to building your code, but I can't guarantee it will be a more pleasant user experience than a Microsoft Office wizard.

Hang on....scratch that.

Of course I can guarantee that it will be a better user experience than a Microsoft Office wizard.

Google Custom Search Engine

Another tool from Google is their Custom Search Engine. Here you can build your engine using results from one site, a sub-section of a site, a group of sites, or even just a specific collection of web pages. It is how I built Chipwrapper. There are also additional tweaks you can apply to the results, and you can change the look and feel of the results to match your own site.

Google custom search engine

Yahoo! Search BOSS

Doctor Who nerds will recognise BOSS as the name of the evil supercomputer in the Jon Pertwee story officially known as "the one with the maggots". [1]

Jon Pertwee Boss

Now a rather less homicidal system called BOSS exists: Yahoo!'s Build your Own Search Service.

Yahoo! Search BOSS

This is your gateway into the Yahoo! Search engine, with access not just to their web index, but also their image search and a 30 day index of news stories.

Yahoo! SearchMonkey

SearchMonkey is a different kind of search API from Yahoo!. Instead of extracting information from the Yahoo! engine, you add value to the results by blending in your own structured data. This allows you to control the appearance and information presented in search results for your content.

Search Monkey Diagram

Yahoo! SearchMonkey Wizard

Like the Google AJAX API, Yahoo! offer a wizard-style approach to building SearchMonkey hacks. I haven't used it myself, but it has a great big cartoon of a monkey wearing glasses, so how bad can it be?

Search Monkey Platform

Yahoo! Term extraction engine

Another useful little tool from Yahoo! for hacks is the term extraction engine. You send it a chunk of text or an article, and in return you get an XML file which includes the key terms and concepts used in the text.

Yahoo Term Extractor

Open Calais

Open Calais is a similar tool to the Yahoo! term extraction engine, but with a more modern spin. Billed as part of 'Web 2.0, Web 3.0, the Semantic Web or the Giant Global Graph', Open Calais also takes text and returns to the user what it thinks the article is about. In this case it identifies entities like people, places, companies, geographies, and returns rich semantic mark-up indicating what it found, and how the entities relate to each other.

Open Calais

Happy hacking!

[1] The acronym stands for 'Biomorphic Organisational Systems Supervisor', appearing in the story "The Green Death" [Return to article]


Hey, it doesn't matter what the API is like. Anything with a cartoon monkey wearing glasses wins in my book!

Many thanks for including Calais, Martin.

Come January, we'll be returning dereferancable URIs, connecting the the Linked Data cloud. See details at OpenCalais.com/blog.

-Krista from the Calais team

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