It's been all change for clients of the Discogs API this year. Since early in the New Year, when OAuth authentication was first required for image downloads, through to now, a stream of changes to how clients interact with the API appear to have worrying implications for app developers.

Back in December, premium Discogs API customers learnt that the premium API was being shutdown and OAuth authentication would become mandatory for image downloads. My own personal first reaction to this was surprise - why not continue to run the premium API product as a separate service? Surely re-selling access to the Discogs data in this way was a useful separate revenue stream?

I think Discogs' management must've decided they would shift focus to their core competencies. By abandoning the premium API product they were able to focus on the Discogs website, and their new venture, VinylHub. However, I think this has worrying implications for app developers that use the Discogs API.

Abandoning the premium API means that app developers no longer have a way of guaranteeing fast access to Discogs data direct from the source. That's a fairly explicit way of discouraging access via apps. However, there are more subtle nudges in this direction.

The adoption of OAuth is one. OAuth (at least how it pertains to Discogs) requires a user to explicitly be logged into the Discogs website. When an app wants to authenticate with OAuth, it must show the Discogs web pages for the user to authorise the app to access Discogs data. Having to visit the Discogs web pages to perform this is one way of attracting more visits to the web site. But it also makes for a cumbersome user experience that app developers would rather avoid.

Then there are the new rate limits. 1000 images downloaded per day, per application? That's a pretty stringent limit and was the motivator for our Discogs image cache. While this doesn't encourage more visits to the website per se, it does discourage app access.

However, probably the clearest indication that Discogs is attempting to discourage app access is that this is becoming a trend. What started with image access will, from October 14th also apply to all searches against the Discogs API. With greater control and monitoring of app activity, how long before database searches become metered? How long before all data lookup becomes metered?

In some ways, we at OneMusicAPI shouldn't complain - it's making our job easier because access to our own Discogs data becomes more attractive. As a long time user of the Discogs API, though, I guess it's a shame that they couldn't find a way of making the API itself its own self sustaining product.

Thanks to Rafa.Garcés who made the the image above available for sharing.
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