Until this month, I had an Android app which displayed road traffic problems on a given route.
It was a fairly simple app, but kinda useful and managed to find 33,000 or so users.
But it’s stopped working. It was using a bunch of travel news feeds from BBC Backstage.
Those feeds now all return:
…we will be discontinuing access to all traffic and travel feeds released via the backstage.bbc.co.uk project, this will include both tpegML and RSS formats…
In the short-term, I can’t find a straightforward replacement (a free and open source of feeds for local traffic and travel news) and so I’ve unpublished the app from Android Market. Sorry.
(I have tinkered with writing my own feeds from NTCC data, which is something I’ve played with before. This is technically do-able – I’ve already written a basic PoC to demonstrate, but there are issues – such as I’d need to pay for the hosting of it, and the data only covers motorways and trunk routes unlike what the BBC had. So not sure whether this is a realistic option.)
As an aside, I had a look at the BBC’s shiny new traffic and travel pages (very nice – a vast improvement on what they used to have), and noticed that they have some small-print:
“…You may not copy, reproduce, republish, download, post, broadcast, transmit, make available to the public, or otherwise use BBC traffic and travel information in any way except for your own personal … use. You must not … create a derivative work from any BBC traffic and travel information except for your own personal … use…”
Okay, I’ll be honest. I was peeking to see if I could spot how their pages got their traffic data, to see if I’d be able to get it in the same way. I figured there must be a call to get a blob of json or XML somewhere in that pretty map.
But that pretty comprehensibly rules out that.
To be fair, I imagine that was added to prevent anyone trying to make up new “feeds” by screen-scraping their site, which is not something any site or server administrator really likes.
But still… it’s hard to escape the impression of “When we had plain simple pages we were happy to let you guys do stuff with our data. But we’ve made our own fancy traffic app now, so we’d rather keep the data to ourselves”.
From what I’ve heard unofficially on twitter though, this was an unintended side effect. Fair enough – I guess if you redesign a site to need feeds in a different format, you don’t want to maintain multiple different versions of sets of feeds.
And I am looking at this from a biased, ever-so-slightly bitter and not at all objective perspective – so it is unfair to jump to assumptions of malice or conspiracy.
At any rate, it’s a shame.