Quandl Chapter 2: The Democratization of Commercial Data

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by Tammer Kamel
Quandl's Founder

About 22 months ago I had the privilege of introducing Quandl to the world on this blog. At that time Quandl had about 2 million datasets and a few hundred users. (And we thought that was fabulous.) Now, at the end of 2014, we have some 12 million datasets on the site and tens of thousands of registered users. On most days we serve about 1 million API requests.

One thing that has not changed however, is the simplicity with which R users can access Quandl. Joseph’s post last year, and Ilya’s this year both demonstrated the ease of connecting to Quandl via R.

Adoption of Quandl in the R community was perhaps the biggest factor in our early success. Thus it is fitting that I am back guest-blogging here at this moment in time because we are actually at the dawn of a new chapter at Quandl: We’re adding commercial data to the site. We are going to make hundreds of commercial databases from domain experts like Zacks, ORATS, OptionWorks, Corre Group, MP Maritime, DelphX, Benzinga and many others available via the same simple API.

What makes this new foray interesting is that we won't be playing by the rules that the incumbent oligarchy of data distributors have established. Their decades-old model has not served consumers well: it keeps data prices artificially high, it cripples innovation, and it is antithetical to modern patterns of data consumption and usage. In fact, the business models around commercial data predate the internet itself. They can and should be disrupted. So we're going to give that a go.

Our plan is nothing less than democratizing supply and demand of commercial data. Anyone will be able to buy data on Quandl. There will be no compulsory bundling, forcing you to pay for extra services you don’t need; no lock-in to expensive long-term contracts; no opaque pricing; no usage monitoring or consumption limits; no artificial scarcity or degradation. Users will be able to buy just the datasets they need, a la carte, as and when they need them. They will get their data delivered precisely the way they want, with generous free previews, minimal usage restrictions and all the advantages of the Quandl platform. And of course, the data itself will be of the highest quality; professional grade data manufactured by the best curators in the world.

We will also democratize the supply of data. Anyone, from existing data vendors and primary data producers to individuals and entrepreneurs, will have equal access to the Quandl platform and the unmet demand of the Quandl user base. We want to create a situation where anyone capable of curating and maintaining a database can monetize their work. In time, we hope that competition among vendors will force prices to their economic minimum. This is the best possible way to deliver the lowest possible prices to our users.

At the same time this democratization should empower capable curators to realize the full value of their skills: If someone can build and maintain a database that commands $25 a month from 1000 people, then Quandl can be the vehicle that transforms that person from skilled analyst to successful data vendor.

If you were to characterize what we are doing as a marketplace for data you would be absolutely correct. We are convinced that fair and open competition will do great things, both for data consumers who are, frankly, being gouged, and for existing and aspirational data vendors who are disempowered. Open and fair competition is a panacea for both ills: it effects lower prices, wider distribution, better data quality, better documentation and better customer service.

Our foray into commercial data has already started with 6 pilot vendors. They range from entrepreneurially-minded analysts who are building databases to rival what the incumbents currently sell for exorbitant fees, to long-established data vendors progressive enough to embrace Quandl’s modern paradigm. We have no less than 25 vendors coming online in Q1 2015.

So, Quandl in 2015 should very quickly become everything an analyst needs: A free and unlimited API, dozens of package connections including to R, 12 million (and growing) free and open datasets, and access to commercial data from the best companies in the world at ever decreasing prices. Wish us luck!

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