I run a number of APi websites for the community and go by the nickname ‘Zag’. I have worked within IT in the education industry for the majority of my career but have always been involved in open-source passion projects on the side in my spare time. I was part of the XBMC Foundation who developed the free and open-source media player software player Kodi, inspired to create add-ons in my spare time that created an even more personalised, engaging and interactive experience accessible via my TV.
I have always believed that data should be free and could be generated by the power of building strong communities. Through my experience in education as well as on open source community based projects, and a little to suit my love (read: OCD!) of collecting and organising data, I was inspired to create a platform which could provide free metadata on a particular topic driven by communities, that could be utilised in other open source projects or apps. This is where one of the first of my websites was born and now run a family of sites under TheDataDB umbrella.
We have around 8,000 registered content creators on our sites and many millions more are connected via the backend APIs.
Over the last 10 years we have launched and developed 4 website APIs which provide free metadata and artwork on specific areas of interest, each aptly named to represent that, TheAudioDB.com, TheSportsDB.com, TheMealDB.com and TheCocktailDB.com. This data is used by developers, commercial businesses and educational organisations in their own open-source projects, websites and mobile apps. Each of the sites are powered by a community of users, who are either able to add and edit the content directly themselves or can send in requests via forums, keeping it current, using a wiki-style interface.
Each of the websites follow the same basic theme; we set them up with an initial data structure and let the users add and edit the details and content in addition to utilising some APIs to pull data. This content is generally moderated by the sites admins including myself, but also at times by other users. This allows data to be kept up-to-date and expanded over time, it also creates a community and reason for users to use both the frontend and backend APIs.
We have also incorporated some features on the majority of these sites to allow user interaction with the data, for example such as “love” a particular song or artist and have added an element of gamification to encourage users to add and edit data. Users are also able and encouraged to make requests and suggestions for features as well as data sets which helps to keep us on our toes and our platforms to include some of the most wide-ranging and comprehensive metadata one-stop-shops out there!
Our sites and APIs are used mainly because they are free and easy to use. We take great pride in making our JSON API incredibly simple to use, with the vast majority of features available to instantly test with a developer API key. Using our API is as simple as copy and pasting a URL into a web browser in its most basic form. We offer a Patreon campaign for users who wish to publish apps on app stores, that has a few advanced API features. This starts at just $1 a month and we have around 100 supporters at the moment. We don’t have any restrictions on usage and give personal support to any supporters who are signed up.
We are always surprised at what developers come up with whilst using our APIs. Some of our favourite projects include a smart mirror that suggests a meal for dinner each morning, a robot bartender that can make your favourite cocktail, and various AI projects to match drinks to a user’s personality traits!
We also take pride in having many schools and colleges use our API as part of their IT courses. Because our APIs are generally free, we get a lot of students from all over the world leveraging our services.
Our sites started in the open-source home theatre space, so we also have many Add-ons that use our sites. Basically the Add-ons provide a way of browsing cocktails or meals on a large TV as you can see on the screenshot below.
We’ve always grown organically as a service. What started off as a small passion project on some home-theatre software forums gained our initial user base and ideas were generated through there. It’s amazing how it’s spread through the years to other projects and eventually onto API lists, package manager sites and software applications. We do ask all app developers to credit us with a link on their descriptions for their published apps as well. But we do have plans to grow and promote these more proactively.
We serve around 10 million calls a month to all our users over the sites. We’ve had to scale quickly at points in our history. There's no sign of the growth stopping either! Our most popular site is TheCocktailDB.com which has shot up the google rankings recently – who doesn’t love a cocktail right?!
I’m a Microsoft server techie in my day job so we run IIS 10, PHP 7 and MySQL as our stack. We’ve found the combination works well, is pretty stable and our expertise in servers and virtualization have helped us scale quickly at times. We also use Cloudflare to cache bandwidth on the sites and provide SSL services.
Are there any upcoming new releases/updates to your API that you can disclose?
We constantly improve our APIs based on user feedback. Many of our features came about from a simple email request or forum post from one of our users. One thing coming soon is the ability to filter cocktails by the first letter. Another feature we just added on TheSportsDB.com is to support American college NFL teams. On TheAudioDB.com we are working on custom user playlists. And on TheMealDB.com we are adding new content such as Keto diet and Gluten free filters. We are also in the process of supporting 4K images on all of the sites and looking to employ a professional photographer to produce even better artwork.
We’ve used many API’s over the years for our data, as an example we use the Songkick API on TheAudioDB.com to list the latest concerts for artists. We’ve also used the Musicbrainz web service to match up our Artist ID’s so they work with music tagging software. On TheSportsDB.com we use a service called XML Soccer to sync up the results each day from the soccer leagues around the world. We also leverage the official API’s from the NBA, MLB and NFL leagues for the latest scores.
Our sites wouldn’t be where they are today if it wasn’t for our community of users, whether uploading and editing data or making feature requests, so a big shout out to them. They’re the reason we keep developing these sites and love hearing about how developers are utilising the data in their apps around the world.
If you’re after quality data or images to include in your app or service, then check out our sites and APIs for yourself! You can visit each listed below or go to our Patreon page for further info: https://www.patreon.com/thedatadb