I must admit that, at first glance, I was slightly underwhelmed by mightyv, which is the first winner of the BBC Backstage competition to build products based on the BBC Backstage APIs. At first glance, it just seems to be a more accessible version of the BBC’s existing TV listings service – kind of like the accessible version of the the Odeon’s website which a chap built (and which Odeon have subsequently ripped off, rather successfully, I think). The only thing I thought about it was that it showed how usable sites can be when they’re designed by one or two guys and not a committee of people with different agendas.
But playing with it a bit more, its true greatness came to light. It lets you tags programmes, and add them to your personal schedule, and even import them into iCal. It lets the community rate things. It has all the participatory goodness a site like this should have. It’s very, very good.
But what I’m really interested in, I suppose, is this: what happens next? Or, to ask the same question another way, how does the BBC benefit? On one level, mightyv has some lovely ideas which, I’m sure, the Beeb would like to copy – but the Beeb’s got an awful lot of very good ideas people of its own, and I’m sure they must have come up with something a lot like this by now. I’m kind of assuming (and this is cheeky, because I don’t know) that the only reason the Beeb wouldn’t produce something like mightyv is structural – they can’t make it happen for internal technical, architectural or even political reasons. Or, even more simply, it just isn’t a priority for them.
Of course, it may be that just having this innovation going on around it, fed by the Backstage feeds, is enough to make changes happen inside the Beeb to get these things delivered. But that seems a small reason to do something as profound as creating an API to your data. I guess what I’m asking (and the same question applies to Google and Yahoo and all the other bleeding-edge API-pushers) is: why are APIs such a good thing? What, in simple terms, is the point?
This is one of those “I know it’s good, I feel it’s good, I just don’t know why it’s good” things….