LibraryLookup considered harmful?

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Screen 1. The Innovative Interfaces service discovery page as the Wayback Machine saw it in Jan 2002, and as I saw it on Tuesday.
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Screen 2. The same page today. Service discovery no longer allowed.

Dylan Tweney asks where I found the list of library services that powers the LibraryLookup project:

Hey Jon -- I was really impressed by your LibraryLookup project -- extremely clever! I was wondering though -- how did you come up with the list of 500+ library systems using Innovative (and the URLs to feed those systems)? That seems like the crux of the project -- getting access to the data -- yet you didn't describe that step. Just curious.

I found it at, an URL I quoted in my original announcement. I would have more specifically quoted this URL, but didn't because I'd have had to reverse-engineer that form in order to be able to refer directly to the North American list that I used.

Curious why the list I used wasn't easy for Dylan to find, I went back and had another look at And guess what? It's changed. Screen 1, courtesy of the Wayback Machine, shows the Customers page as it was in January 2002, and as I remember it on Tuesday. Screen 2 shows the Customers page today. No more enumeration of the libraries in Innovative's network.

Clearly this is no coincidence. I did try to call folks at Innovative yesterday to give them a heads-up, and I also emailed those whose addresses I could Google based on what I could glean from their management team page. Nobody replied.

I don't know whether this step was taken in response to my emails, or in response to the publicity that LibraryLookup has generated. Perhaps both.

Of course this raises interesting questions. The LibraryLookup project has received some rave reviews in the past 24 hours. I'm sure it didn't thrill Amazon, though. Did they lean on Innovative? Or was Innovative just shocked by the unintended consequences of publicizing what was (though they never thought of it as such) a directory of Web services?

Some might say that the project threatens e-commerce. As Christmas draws near, that could be seen as unpatriotic -- if not downright treasonous. I don't see it that way, though. I can't think of anything more patriotic than helping citizens to make better use their free libraries. What's more, I don't plan to spend less at Amazon next year. I plan to buy as usual, but buy more intelligently, focusing on books not locally available. I'll read more, but that's a good thing for all of us, right?

Some might also say that websites shouldn't be used for purposes unintended by their creators. I violently disagree. "Recombinant growth" is the way forward. The web is astonishingly good at encouraging such growth. I pray that we don't screw it up.

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