Introducing microlink.io

October 29, 2017

Months ago, I decided move for create very downloaded but questionably useful npm packages to use these packages in create real projects. Something that I can show to my mum.

These kind of projects have sense for me because:

The most important thing that I learned is, even you think you are a programmer guy, programming is just 1/3 of all the time you need to invest in the project.

Launch a successful side project is a problem more related with execution, not programming.

Today, I going to be excited to launch my latest project, microlink.io and show you what I learned.

What is microlink.io

https://microlink.io get relevant infromation from any link.

Taking a whatever url as input, it will extract structured and normalized information related with the link, like:

Complementary it can do extra but fancy actions, like:

The way to interact with microlink.io is based a simple API microservice:

$ curl https://api.microlink.io?url=https://microlink.io

The response of this API call will be something like:

{
	"status": "success",
	"data": {
		"author": null,
		"date": null,
		"description": "Turns any link into information.",
		"favicon": "https://microlink.io/favicon.ico",
		"image": {
			"width": 438,
			"height": 220,
			"type": "png",
			"url": "https://microlink.io/preview.png"
		},
		"logo": {
			"width": 400,
			"height": 400,
			"type": "png",
			"url": "https://d33wubrfki0l68.cloudfront.net/4be8a26507e779272b76c8427a86066bd1bc7346/168e4/logo.png"
		},
		"publisher": "Turns any link into information.",
		"title": "microlink",
		"url": "https://microlink.io"
	}
}

One of the thing that I like more about microlink is that you can embed the content directly in your website, doing nothing extra.

Do you see the image field from the response? Let’s use it directly in this blog post.

<img src="https://api.microlink.io/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fmicrolink.io&embed=image.url" />

voilá!

How is made microlink.io

Codebase

It’s the more technical part.

When you provide a link, microlink will be get the HTML content of the website and apply a set of rules for recover specific fields present in the HTML.

For example, we going to suppose we want to extract title. We can extract the value from different HTML tags:

… and more tricky selectors to get the value from all the website in the world.

One important thing here is testing: Each website is different and we need to be sure we extract the right value per each field.

We tested a lot of websites and adjust the value for best effort. Of course it’s not perfect, but probably is because the input HTML is wrong or missing.

A funny thing I discovered working on this part is that it’s incredible how badly looks the HTML from the top websites in the world. They are not putting attention or doing any effort in have semantic and logical HTML markup.

microlink codebase is based on metascrapper (where I’m contributor). Thanks Ian Storm Taylor for create it, It’s very inspirational.

Probably I’m going to release this part in the future because it will be improved a lot adopting an open source community.

Landing Page

The website that can see microlink.io.

Probably the landing page for a project is the most important part. It will be resume all the effort.

I think we tends to create landing pages at the end of the process and we don’t put all the attention that it needs: You are thinking in finish the project as soon as possible, but you need to keep in mind that landing page will be last thing for you but the first thing people see.

I have to say special thanks to Danny Saltaren and mendesaltaren team to helping me with the design. It’s better than I ever imagined.

Feedback in these step is very important: You need to validate how it looks before the launch day. I want to say thanks again to Frontaneros community to provide me a lot of useful feedback.

The source code is available on GitHub.

Documentation

microlink is not oriented specifically for developers, but it’s necessary resource area with all the information about what you can do with the API.

Like the landing page, these part is very important: something that you don’t documented basically don’t exist.

Write human readable documentation is not easy: It needs to be simple, with a clear intention, well structured, with enough example and as complete as possible.

Also, when you update your codebase, you need to reflect the changes in the documentation, so I takes an extra task of maintain.

Again, the source code is available on GitHub.