Open beats Closed: Best Buy’s new APIs

Welcome to Joshua-Michele Ross, who joins the Radar team with a focus on how Web 2.0 is affecting business strategy – Sara Winge

Best Buy is a pioneer when it comes to unleashing the talent of their own staff; from the Loop Marketplace that allows employees to submit ideas for Digg-style ranking AND funding across divisions (for example an HR manager can fund an idea from a customer service employee) to their use of prediction markets and their support of the employee-driven social network, Blue Shirt Nation.

Now they are hoping to tap into the developer talent pool with which they announced at the recent NYC Web 2.0 Expo. According to project lead, Dave Micko, Remix is “an open API to access all of the data that feeds So, all of the rich information featured on Best Buy’s extensive, deep and content rich web site will now be available publicly via a simple, REST-based API call. “

While other big box stores are thinking small and releasing unappetizing Facebook widgets like this:

Best Buy is thinking much more strategically about the value of the Internet by allowing anyone to reinvent their entire online store. With “access to all the data that feeds” imagine the potential of creating your own, curated site on top of Best Buy’s catalog and supply chain. Imagine top Blue Shirts running their own online stores with select merchandise that they stand behind or imagine a thousand home-theater geeks and “go-to-guys” (and girls) extending their expertise and word-of-mouth via their own online stores.

Much needed breakthroughs in ecommerce usability (product and catalog navigation, visualization, design and findability) are now open to thousands of developers to work on. Best Buy will be able to bring that intelligence back into their organization. The only missing piece seems to be some form of compensation for folks who actually go to the trouble of creating their own stores; reward zone points, commission, reputation etc.

Open beats Closed:
This move reflects one of the new strategic principles at work on the Internet: Open beats Closed. There are two readings of open beats closed – both correct and on-point for Best Buy. First, it is the literal injunction to be consistent with the norms of behavior on the Social Web; authentic, transparent and candid. Second, businesses are finding new ways of sourcing content, innovation and market insight and energy outside of their organization. They are letting more people to contribute by allowing access to once tightly guarded data or business processes (via APIs and mashups). As a result they are redrawing the boundaries of the traditional organization. As we dig deeper into the network economy closed companies are going to find it more and more difficult to survive against open companies.

Has anyone in the Radar community seen a similar, open move by a big, traditional company? I have not.
(In full disclosure: I have worked with Best Buy on several initiatives but have nothing to do with the remix project.)

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  • This open beats closed mentality is part of a growing movement inside Best Buy. The open APIs they guys have developed is the result of a long tough road inside Best Buy. We have an even longer tougher road ahead of us with our customers. But with offerings like this, the open gift registry at and more ideas like it we might have just have a chance to not suck.

  • Is this already launched?

    It will be very interesting to read the Terms of Service. The fact of the API is great, but the ToS will determine what gets built on it. Here’s hoping it’s also right-minded. In the meantime, sounds great.

  • I work for, we are owned by and are doing the exact same thing but with our ENTIRE product inventory. Over 2,000,000 products. It is great news that Best Buy is moving in this direction – e-commerce needs to be open.


  • Finally! In the time it takes me to checkout of their current site I can probably write my own ecommerce engine on their data :)

  • Darren Lepke

    Amazon does the exact same thing. And it offers affiliate commissions as well.

  • I checked with a contact at Mashery (the company powering the Best Buy API). I’m told that similar moves by established company’s (i.e., not directly tech/Web 2.0) include: MTV Networks, World Bank, Lonely Planet and Calais (Thomson-Reuters).

  • Thanks for the kind words, Josh. This has been in the works for a while — I think I first pitched the idea of us becoming a publisher of content in 2002.

    @ Terry Jones — take a look at our TOS. If it sucks, tell us what’s wrong and we’ll try to fix it.

  • National Public Radio (NPR) has a new API that provides access to their archived news and media dating back to 1995: