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Companies House launches free data site



Agency takes real time information service with API into public beta

Companies House made its new free data service publicly available with the launch of a public beta version of the website along with an application programme interface (API) to promote its re-use.

It said the service has made 170 million company records available free of charge, including information on financial accounts, directors and secretaries, and that users will be able to find real time updates.

Although all of the information was previously in the public domain, Companies House levied a charge for access.

The provision of an API, which provides with developers with the scope to use the data in apps and online services, makes it a significant step in the open data campaign. Companies House is one of the major sources of government data considered likely to provide value to developers, but has traditionally run on a business model that depends on its revenues from charging for data.

Moving into public beta means the site is open to general use but could still have bugs in the system and is open to feedback before being finalised.

Government chief digital officer Mike Bracken has joined the flag waving for the release, with a blogpost complimenting Companies House for its approach in developing the project. It went through an iterative design process with discover, alpha and beta phases with considerable user research and response to feedback, such as enabling legislative changes to ensure that dates of birth stored as part of the dataset cannot be misused.

“This is the model for registers of the future,” he said, emphasising the Companies House has to change its whole business model to make this possible.

Chief executive Tim Moss said in a video statement to accompany the launch that releasing data for free would lead to an increase in its use, which would be good for the economy.



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