ESPN Frees Up Web Headline Feeds, With Caveats

ESPN is making an application programming interface for its news headlines freely available to mobile and Web developers to incorporate into their own apps -- although noncommercial use of the API carries several restrictions.

The sports programmer has launched the ESPN Developer Center, which provides info on how to gain access to the API.

ESPN's Headlines API can be used to create apps for delivering the hundreds of daily ESPN stories to any smartphone or tablet, finding content related to an ESPN article and creating a "top stories" summary, among other features.

The ESPN Headlines API is free for noncommercial use, but is limited to 2,500 API calls per day. If a given app exceeds that allotted limit, "you may be asked to become an ESPN API Partner, at which point a specific business agreement may be reached with you," the company says on its developer's website.

All apps that tap into the free ESPN Headlines API must be offered free of charge to download and may not contain any in-app purchase features. In addition, any apps must include an approved ESPN trademark or logo, and may not include advertising or sponsorship of any kind unless that's included in the content made available by ESPN.

Furthermore, developers using the free Headlines API are forbidden from issuing a press release or making "any public statement about the ESPN API (and related Content), Tools, the inclusion of any of the foregoing in any Apps (yours or others') or these API Terms of Use without ESPN's prior written approval," according to ESPN.

Other APIs available at the ESPN Developer Center are available only to commercial partners. Those include a Research Notes API, which provides access to ESPN's archive of sports facts and figures; a Scores and Schedules API that provides start times, venues, competitors, scores and stats across major sports; and APIs that offer standings, team and athlete information.

ESPN's new APIs are already part of mobile apps developed by news aggregators Pulse and Flipboard, as well as Foursquare's location-based social networking app.

"The ESPN Developer Center allows us to scale more quickly and to reach more fans in new ways with the ESPN content they want," ESPN Digital Media Technology vice president Jason Guenther said in a statement. "Making ESPN APIs available to innovative partners and independent developers helps ensure that we remain nimble, efficient and creative in our own product development, which translates to more and better ESPN products for fans."

The ESPN APIs currently support XML (Extensible Markup Language), JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) and JSONP (JSON with padding) response types.