In the past I have had mixed success asking for web APIs on other Stack Exchange sites. I think I've tried Stack Overflow and Web Apps, but I'm not 100% sure.

Web APIs seem to be much like libraries and as both programming tools including libraries, and web services seem to be considered on-topic, then I assume web APIs ought to be on-topic as well.

But it never hurts to ask and make sure.


3 Answers 3


Make sure you differentiate between asking for a Web API (which I agree with Gilles is on-topic here), and asking for a Web Service / Provider.

I know it's hard to draw a line here, so please look at some examples of "dos and don'ts":

  • I always thought of a Web API as a type of Web service. Perhaps we could define a policy that all kinds of Web Services other than Web APIs are off topic? Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 12:58
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    Maybe we need to define what a "Web API" is: A web service providing some data, or the Application Programmers Interface to access it. And where the borderline lies between the two.
    – Izzy Mod
    Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 13:02
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    @hippietrail That's not the relevant distinction: web apps (not APIs, but intended for direct use by humans) are on-topic. The difference is between asking for something that performs certain computations (on-topic) and asking for where someone would sell you time (and bandwidth etc.) on their computer (off-topic). Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 13:39

I agree with the reasoning. A web API is a kind of library. It's on-topic here.

As with other web stuff, please be clear in your question whether you're looking for library software to run on your own server, or an existing service that provides such an API.

  • Yes I think a web API tag would be warranted since it's kind of a specialised subset of a "web service". Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 9:31
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    @hippietrail As I'm sure you know, we create tags after a question arises. If you see a question that warrants the web-api tag before you have the reputation to create it, let us know (or just wait for someone to add it if it's a new question). Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 9:32
  • Thanks, I was in fact in the middle of a search for web API questions here to see how people were tagging them so far (-: Looks like early days yet but no worries at all ... Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 9:36

I think it depends.

Asking for (Web) APIs that …

  • (1) … do a specific job: on-topic.
  • (2) … provide specific data: off-topic.

(1) Asking for an API that "corrects spelling errors in a given text" would be on-topic. That would be similar to asking for a spell checking Web app recommendation.

(2) Asking for an API that "gives the current weather in a given city" should be off-topic. That would be similar to asking for a weather website recommendation.

{{ When a specific service (for example, a search engine) provides a "meta" API that allows others to provide APIs on top of that, asking for an API for that specific service should be on-topic, as it would be the case (1): While it’s, of course, providing data, the question is about accessing this specific data set. But this is probably a rare case, as there is usually only one API for a specific service (and in that case, it wouldn’t make sense to ask for it). }}

The difference between Web apps and APIs is the access method: browser+HTML vs. API client+[XML, JSON, …], so I think the same rules should apply. If a Web app question is on-topic, the same question asking for a Web API instead would be on-topic, too. When a question would be closed because it’s asking for a website recommendation, the same question should be closed if it would ask for a Web API instead.

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    I don't see the distinction. A spell checker basically checks each word against its internal data. A weather API serves up its internal data. Either could work via an external or internal API, though the latter would require a powerful computer with climate/weather modelling, so isn't really practical. But that's a pragmatic distinction rather than technical. What if you want any website API you can call rather than "what is the best weather website". By the way, there are lots of weather web API questions on Stack Overflow, and not just how to use, but asking about paid vs free, etc. Commented Mar 14, 2014 at 12:16
  • @hippietrail: But when it would be on-topic to ask for a weather APIs, shouldn’t it also be on-topic to ask for weather websites? (I’m not feeling strongly about this, but I don’t see a relevant difference between these two kinds)
    – unor
    Commented Mar 14, 2014 at 12:48
  • I think if the website is a webapp, then it's on topic anyway since it's software, but if the website is not a webapp then it's off topic. That still leaves a bit of a grey area but one we have to deal with anyway I suppose. Commented Mar 14, 2014 at 12:50
  • @hippietrail: A simple weather API would send a document containing "10 °C" when geting the URL api.example.com/celsius/Reykjavík. A simple weather website (which would be no web-app) would show a page containing "10 °C" when geting example.com/celsius/Reykjavík.
    – unor
    Commented Mar 14, 2014 at 12:54
  • Yes for me it's easy, the site or company or organization provides an API, then it's a web API and is on topic. A website that you had to scrap would be off topic. (But whether some non-API site is a webapp or not is a topic for another question, not this one.) Commented Mar 14, 2014 at 13:00

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