Over the past year, we have made major changes to the Mendeley API. Many of these changes made existing Apps work better than before, but some required the developers of those Apps to make changes, and we’ve worked with those developers over the past year to help them make the transition.
In some cases, the developers decided not to transition, which hasn’t been the case of Scholarley. We spoke to the developer, Matthew Wardrop:
Mendeley is a fantastic piece of software that couples with the cloud to synchronise your entire academic paper library across multiple devices. During the early years of my PhD, I loved using Mendeley on my desktop; but also wanted a way to read those papers when I was on the go. At the time, Mendeley did not provide any mobile applications (Android or iOS), but they did have the foresight to provide an API by which all of the documents/metadata/files/etc could be accessed. Motivated by my own paper reading needs, I decided to write an App for Android tablets (and later phones), which took advantage of this API in order to have ready access to my papers when and where I needed them. Thus was Scholarley born!
Around the same time, other Mendeley Apps were being developed (such as Droideley and Referey), each excellent in their own way; but each of them did not provide the features I needed. In time, Scholarley garnered a lot of attention, and continued to accrue ever increasing numbers of users up until the release of Mendeley’s official Android App; at which time it sported more than 37,000 active users. Many features were added into Scholarley at the request of keen users, whom I thank for their enthusiasm.
However, Scholarley was never intended to implement all of Mendeley’s features. With the time and financial budget available to me during my PhD, implementing things like synchronised annotations and in-App PDF viewing were simply not feasible. Furthermore, I always understood that Mendeley would eventually develop and release their own Android application, which in my mind would supersede what I had the resources to provide. Thus, when Mendeley announced plans to work on an Android app, I deprioritised work on Scholarley; and when Mendeley did release their App, I deactivated Scholarley for new users in the Google Play store; and updated the App description to encourage existing users to adopt the new Mendeley App. I am confident that any genuine deficiencies or shortcomings of the official App (compared to Scholarley, which had many of its own) will be worked out in the fullness of time.
Mendeley’s response to Scholarley’s existence and role has been great. Mendeley has on occassion updated or fixed problems with their API based on bugs that surfaced in Scholarley, and kept me abreast of upcoming changes; including the deprecation of the old API which Scholarley uses. While Scholarley could be updated to use the new API, I have chosen instead not to divide the user base, and to support instead the official App. The deprecation of the old API was scheduled to occur a long time ago, but when Scholarley was not going to be updated, they graciously have let the old API live on until the release of the official App; and indeed, even afterward as they grandfathered old users off Scholarley and into the official ecosystem. But the time has come.
When the old API is disabled, Scholarley will cease to synchronise with Mendeley’s servers. You may continue to use it in offline mode, but you will not be able to download new papers or upload changes to old ones. The new official App is considerably more stable than Scholarley, and already supports in-App paper reading and metadata editing; with more features coming on a regular basis. Now is the time to move over to the official Android application.
It would be remiss of me not to say, at this point, a heartfelt thank you to all those who have supported Scholarley with positive reviews, encouraging emails and/or financially. You have made the process of writing and maintaining the App enjoyable. But all good things come to an end, and the end for Scholarley has come.
We are incredibly thankful to Matt and his Scholarley creation as it filled a void for many Mendeley users. Scholarley has now been removed from the App store and the old API endpoints it uses will soon be removed. Please head over to the Play Store to get Mendeley for Android. As always, we’d love to know what you think.
Why did we need a new API? Couldn’t we just fix up the old one?
The initial version of our API (often referred to as the OAPI) was a fantastic success, in terms of provoking interest and spawning some great clients, from mobile Mendeley clients such as Papership or Scholarley, to some great ideas that Mendeley could never exploit internally, such as openSNP or KinSync. Unfortunately, the OAPI that we had, was no longer a technology enabler. It was brittle and resistant to change with a high maintenance overhead. We could not add new features or resource strategic projects.
We wrote the new API (we recently celebrated it’s 1st anniversary) to increase security, add additional features, and link together the users, data, and apps of the existing Elsevier platforms so we can help researchers discover new research and help them with essential time consuming tasks and to increase the overall performance of the service. You can read about some of the features of version 1 here.
So we are currently embarking on decommissioning our legacy systems. We have worked closely with clients (see OAPI Blackout Testing) to ensure they have migrated onto the new API and in most cases all clients have taken the plunge and migrated.
We’re very grateful to all our API clients, new and old, past and present. If you’re interested in joining our API community, check out the Mendeley Developer Portal.