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Bio & Life Sciences

23andMe Opens Up to App Developers, But Beware

If you’ve had your genome sequenced, there will soon be apps for that. Personal genome sequencing company 23andMe this week opened up its application program interface to allow third-party developers to build “a broad range of new applications and tools for the 23andMe community generated from the company’s data sets.”

The announcement came, appropriately, at the Quantified Self Conference in Palo Alto on Sunday, where imaginations could run wild about apps for personal genomic data. A statement from 23andMe CEO and Co-Founder Anne Wojcicki claimed “the API will open the door to the possibility of new web-based interactive tools to be developed by external groups.”

Pinged by many for his thoughts on the move, open access advocate John Wilbanks blogged, “I’m torn between wanting to praise 23andMe and wanting to scream DANGER DANGER DANGER at the top of my lungs.” It’s a business move, Wilbanks warns coder colleagues:

“…there is nothing that prevents the strategic shrinking of an API, or the subtle or not so subtle pressure to turn off applications that compete with core business functions or revenues of 23andMe. …If you write an awesome app to a closed API, it makes good business sense to give you the Sopranos treatment. You make the app, it gets popular, you get the bust out. Twitter started with a wide open API and is basically phasing it out. Sucks if you invested your time there.”

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