biNu: Wordnik on almost any mobile phone

For all the Sturm und Drang about smartphones, most people still have what are called ‘feature phones.’ Features phones are simpler than smartphones, but many can still run basic apps.

biNu is a company specializing in this enormous if little-heralded market, and they’ve used the Wordnik API to build a dictionary and translation app optimized for basic phones. It’s been downloaded almost 300,000 times in the month since it launched, making it both Binu’s most popular app and, other than itself, one of the larger sources of traffic to Wordnik’s API.

We’re super excited to see Wordnik made available across an enormous array of devices and to a worldwide audience who might not have easy access to the web. If you have a feature phone, give it a shot and let us know what you think.

Wiktionary, Improved Profiles


Here’s a quick overview of some recent site updates. First, Wiktionary has been added as a definition source, giving Wordnik much better coverage of slang and pop cultural terms, among other things. We’ll be periodically re-importing Wiktionary data, so if you’d like to add material to Wordnik, editing the Wiktionary is now one way improve an awesome public resource and help Wordnik at the same time.

Profiles have also been updated. You can show your location, add a web address, and add links to other social services you’re on. Profiles also now optionally display your recent lookups.

Lastly, lists and other pages belonging to specific users now give a synopsis of that person’s contributions, something I personally missed and am psyched to have back. It’s fun to see who the real obsessives are, see when someone has passed a milestone, and to see who’s just getting rolling, so that we can welcome them into the fold.

Wordnik, Now With More Thesaurus

We’ve added some new features to the ‘related words’ page, reorganized it, and given it a promotion: Wordnik now sports a thesaurus.

By far the coolest of its new powers is the ability to compare two words on the same page, showing definitions or examples for each side-by-side. It’s like a comparison shopping site, but for words.

To use it click the ‘Compare’ button in the right-hand column of any thesaurus page. Check the boxes next to the two words you’d like to see next to each other, et voilà — as soon as you’ve made your second selection, an overlay shows their definitions side by side. You can also see side-by-side examples, and tweet the comparison. It’s a comparithesaurus.

The tweet option brings up another featurette: Comparisons, despite being page-within-a-page, Pale Fire-style affairs, have URLs of their own, like this. So they can be tweeted, or emailed, or IMed, or whatever. We’ll be adding more built-in share options soon.

This is, like all of Wordnik, an ongoing effort. The underlying data is being continually improved, and the features will be added to and refined. If you have suggestions or criticism, please let us know in the comments or through

Ruby and Python Libraries, Rails and Django Demo Apps

We’re excited to announce two new client libraries for the Wordnik API: an official Ruby gem and a Python package.

The Ruby gem is available on github and rubygems, and the Python package is on github and pypi.

To illustrate the use of these libraries we’ve also put together “Hello Dictionary” apps in both Rails and Django.  Both apps live in the wordnik/api-examples repo on github (here are direct links to the Rails app and the Django app). The README for each project shows some example usage, and for the Rails and Django apps, the README is a tutorial that takes you from scratch to a fully-functional dictionary app in about 15 minutes.

As always, let us know if you have questions or find bugs, and let us know what you build!  Code contributions are gratefully appreciated, and we’d like to sincerely thank Martin Marcher and Vince Spicer for their contributions to the Python library, and Jason Adams for inspiring the Ruby work. We’re currently working on a full-fledged PHP library, and plan Java and Objective-C libraries down the line (in the meanwhile basic examples are available in all those languages). If you have suggestions or requests for support in other languages, please let us know.

2010 Developer Challenge Winners

The 2010 Wordnik Developers Challenge drew many impressive entries, and, after much deliberation, we’ve selected the winners. An enormous thank you to everyone who entered. We very much appreciate the thought and effort put into the projects, and the feedback we received has improved the API for everyone. So, without further ado

There were a few versions of hangman submitted, but Hangnik for Android, by KoderMonkeys, added some unique twists and is the winner in the games category. It has a pleasant interface, and game play is initiated by a example sentence rather than just a blank word, which adds a nice MadLibs flavor.

A lot of entries had educational aspects, but stands out. It lets you explore patterns in Wordnik in a meandering, non-goal-oriented fashion, and has a delightfully clean design.

One of Wordnik’s goals is providing language information when and where it’s needed, and for that reason twtdict, by Michael Howland, is the winner in the productivity category. Using Twitter as the delivery channel allows anyone with a SMS-capable phone — basic feature phones as well as smart phones — to easily get dictionary and thesaurus data. It’s a simple but powerful idea, and well implemented.

Best in Show
Because it marries Wordnik and mobile technologies, and is accessible to the majority of the world using basic phones (it even works on the LG 100), twtdict also wins the “best in show” category. If you’re filling out a form and need to know the meaning of a word, if you’re reading a paperback on a bus, if you’re in a bar and trying to settle a bet, twtdict lowers the bar for being able to access a powerful resource. It’s fun, practical, and democratic.

Honorable Mentions
We were also impressed with Romin Irani’s Wordnik GTalk Bot and the Speculative Grammarian’s Scrabble Cheater’s Dictionary, both of whom receive honorable mentions.

We’ll be contacting the winners shortly with more information on your prizes. Congratulations, and thanks again to everyone who entered!

Built-in Translations

Wordnik is a primarily an English-language resource, but we just added a feature to help bridge the gap between English and the rest of the world. Every word page now sports a “translate to” option, which lets you view that word in any of 50 languages. Translation is “sticky,” meaning once you select a language, subsequent words will appear with the translation to that language until you turn translation off (it’s easily dismissible).

The translations come from Google’s amazing Language API, the only downside of which is that if we want to support other languages (Tamil, for instance), we need to wait for Google to support them first.

For those learning English, we hope that having translations alongside the context Wordnik provides will make for a richer learning environment than standalone translations. If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments on how we can better implement translation, please email us, or let us know in the comments.