Last week I wrote a joint for the WorldFish Center which uses the REST protocol to interface with the WorldFish media repository at Widen.com. My responses are mixed, but hopeful.
The Widen API is just a bunch of remote functions for managing, querying and organizing media assets in many different ways. It can be seen as a transitional technology between what we web pros call "Web 2.0" (distributed services) and "Web 3.0" (semantic web).
The folks at WorldFish have a huge media repository including thousands of well-organized images from around the world, including metadata, and they wanted to give users searchable access to this repository via their website. But there's a complication: WorldFish is part of the nonprofit CGIAR consortium, and that entity has many other websites, all of which want searchable access to different subsets of these media collections.
Things tend to fall between the cracks (or completely off the ship) when a complex behemoth like a software corporation makes a sudden turn, and frequently, one of those things is the user documentation.
Since the Widen API allows on-the-fly collections or searches across photographs, videos, powerpoints, mp3s and associated metadata, it's a great fit for a situation like this.
Using REST and SOAP APIs for the remote querying of media assets is of course a great idea, and in the long run I could see this being a feature many CDNs rush to start implementing. On this level, Widen definitely has its head in the right place, and its ducks in a row. But so far the public face of their system has been less than inviting. One gets the feeling that their systems were all handled internally up until recently, and they're making a quick shift to provide a more automated variety of "self-service".
As this shift occurs, there's bound to be some inherent vice. Things tend to fall between the cracks (or completely off the ship) when a complex behemoth like a software corporation makes a sudden turn, and frequently, one of those things is the user documentation.
My contacts at Widen assure me that they're aware of these outward-facing challenges, and they recognize that the company is experiencing some growing pains. So I'm not trashing The Widen API. I think it's a great idea, in fact I'm surprised I haven't seen a lot more of this kind of thing - although there are some functions I'd like to see added.
What I'm saying is: Check it out, but give it a little time before jumping in. You can use that time to start adding metadata to your media assets. Web 3.0 is comin', yo.