You Asked, We Delivered: Introducing the DomainTools API

| July 13, 2011

Did you know the first product DomainTools sold was an API? We built an innovative domain suggestion engine called Name Spinner (Now Domain Suggestions) that was —and still is—popular with registrars, likely driven to some extent by the crowded .com space.

Since then, we’ve build a solid set of research, history, and alert products for our members. But until recently, we haven’t been able to invest the time needed in order to make that data available through an API. We built a few data services for our Whois Lookup and Historical Whois products, and although the data services themselves were quite solid, the documentation was rough (or non-existent) and there was no way to sign up or manage your account without contacting our business development team.

Our new API product offering aims to change all that.

For starters, it has an incredibly intuitive interface with RESTful URLs that usually start with a domain name, like this: http://api.domaintools.com/v1/domaintools.com.

The data format defaults to JSON, not XML. When we asked our own engineers what changes we should make to the current XML format, they unanimously agreed we should drop it entirely in favor of JSON. If you haven’t done much research into that format, you should — it’s lightweight, self-describing, and very easy to parse in just about any language. Even though we ended up keeping XML as an option, and even made a human-friendly HTML version, we love JSON and we think you will, too.

We intentionally avoided SOAP, not because we have hygiene issues, but because we find the format very difficult to use and often complete overkill, especially for data services like ours.

You’ll notice we took a somewhat novel approach to sample queries: we’re giving away data for free for our own domain name. That lets you try out the products and get real data without even signing up for an API account. (Hint: You can use this to view the entire Whois history for DomainTools.com for free, with a bit of exploration through the API docs.)

Have you ever noticed how API documentation either has too little technical detail or too much marketing speak? Hopefully we avoided the worst of those extremes in our much-improved and expanded API documentation, but we’re anxious to hear from you on what we can fix to make it as obvious and easy to use as possible.

And finally, here’s another big improvement: you can now sign up and manage your API account directly without having to wait for us to set it up for you or deal with manual billing arrangements. The billing and account provisioning is completely automated, so if you have an idea for our data you can start using it within minutes.

You can read our press release about the DomainTools API here.

Our engineers and business folks have been working hard on this project for several months now, and we’re anxious to hear what you think of it. Does it provide the data you’re looking for? Can we make the sign-up process easier? How’s the documentation? Anything else? Email us at: memberservices@DomainTools.com with your feedback or feel free to comment on this blog. Thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts with us!

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Category: API, Domain Tools Updates

About the Author ()

Mark directs product management activities at DomainTools. He’s been with the company for over five years.