Modern Software Experience

2011-12-22

private API is public now

New FamilySearch

New FamilySearch (NFS), FamilySearch's social genealogy site, has been in development for many years. It still isn't publicly available, nor in Public Beta yet. New FamilySearch, now known as FamilySearch Family Tree, went in Limited Private Beta early this year and FamilySearch has not even announced that there will be Public Beta next year.

familysearch subdomains

FamilySearch owns several domains. They used to have a separate gedcom.org domain for GEDCOM, and their recently revealed GEDCOM X has its own gedcomx.org domain.
Most FamilySearch stuff is on the familysearch.org domain, but they do use several subdomains. The end-user website can be found at www.familysearch.org, their developer site at dev.familysearch.org, and their wiki at wiki.familysearch.org.

FamilySearch API

FamilySearch Family Tree has an API. The FamilySearch Family Tree API is infamously private. The API documentation is available to FamilySearch-approved registered developers.

When you visit the FamilySearch developer subdomain, the site seems very open; it displays many menus and links. Alas, that appearance is deceiving; most of the menu items and links displayed do not lead anywhere until you log in. You can only log in after having applied for and being approved for a developer account. Your application for a developer account has to include agreement to all the legalese in the FamilySearch API license. That license includes such language as You shall not use the API, Databases, or FamilySearch Content, or permit the same to be used in any manner, whether directly or indirectly, that would permit the disclosure of the API, Databases, or the FamilySearch Content.
However, FamilySearch has now made disclosed their API themselves.

FamilyTree

The URL for the FamilySearch Family Tree webapp is www.familysearch.org/tree. When you browse to that URL, you'll probably be prompted to log into FamilySearch, but making a free account is not enough to get access. You also have to be a member of the LDS or have been invited into the Limited Private Beta.

FamilySearch Family Tree: login required

This morning, I decided to check on the Family Tree project, and browsed to www.familysearch.org/familytree. That is not the right URL; the Family Tree project is at www.familysearch.org/tree, not www.familysearch.org/familytree, but the FamilySearch site did not present an error page. I was not even prompted for my FamilySearch password. Instead, I was presented with the FamilySearch API documentation. Just like that.

FamilySearch Family Tree API public

Let this sink in. I tried to browse to the Family Tree web app by manually entering its URL, made a small but understandable mistake, and was presented with the hitherto secret FamilySearch API documentation.
I was not asked to apply for a developer account and await their decision.
I was not asked to agree to the FamilySearch API license.
I was not even prompted to log in with my FamilySearch account.
I was presented with a completely public set of web pages, containing the FamilySearch API documentation.

The FamilySearch API documentation is publicly available at www.familysearch.org/familytree.

FamilySearch Family Tree API downloads

FamilySearch API

The public set of pages appears to offer full documentation of the FamilySearch API, complete with downloadable XML schemas, libraries and sources, including a ActionScript 3 client library, a C client library, a .NET client library in C#, a Java client library, an Objective C client library, and a Ruby client library.
The download links work without a hitch. You are not even prompted to log in.
All these things are publicly available for download by anyone who's interested. The dates shown on the download page suggest that these public pages have been available since 2011 Nov 28.

updates

2012-07-01: FamilySearch Family Tree Public

FamilySearch Family Tree itself is Public now.

2013-06-04: GEDCOM X 1.0

FamilySearch has published their new FamilySearch Family Tree API, and the GEDCOM X version number has been changed to 1.0.0 M1.

links