It has been a while since our last update, but we’ve been very busy. We’re excited to announce that today we’re releasing a significant update to Dapper that allows you to create Dapps for websites that require a username and password. This means that now you can create Dapps for your web-mail accounts, your web banking, your online college course calendar, and any any other data that sits behind a login form. Over the past couple months we’ve received many requests for this functionality, and so after a lot of work, we’re happy to announce that it’s now available. The possibilities are truly endless – RSS for your webmail, an email alert to notify you when you’re running out of money in your bank account, a Google module that shows you how much SkypeOut credit you have in your account, and more – as usual, your creativity is the limit.
To demonstrate the power and ease of this functionality, we’ve built Snag, an aggregator for several of the most popular social networks. It’s a proof of concept, but we think you’ll find it useful.
So, how does all this work and how can you get started making and using these new Dapps? The answer is that it’s no different than any other Dapp. When you’re creating a new Dapp for a site that requires you to log in, use the Dapper Virtual Browser. Go through the login process in the Virtual Browser as you would on the site itself, and then add pages to your basket as usual. When you proceed to define your fields and groups, you’ll be asked for your username and password. Supply the credentials you ordinarily give to the site, and Dapper will log in to the site as you, and perform its analysis. When you save the Dapp, your username and password are not saved in the Dapp (for your security), and as such you will have to supply them whenever you use the Dapp (whether it is the XML you are retrieving, or working with one of transformers like RSS or JSON). There are two ways you can do this: you can supply them as POST arguments or as GET arguments in the URL. The latter is very easy to do from the “how to use” page of any Dapp. Using this page to generate a URL will automatically encrypt your username and password so that the URL you are given does not contain your credentials in clear text. If you want to encrypt credentials programmatically (for use in a service you build, for instance), you can use our credentials encryption web-service to encrypt your users’ credentials once and reuse the encrypted credentials repeatedly. Additional details appear in the FAQs. We’ll soon be supporting HTTPS, and when we do, if you POST your credentials, they’ll be encrypted automatically, and the data returned to you will also be encrypted.
It’s important to note that this is an early release of the login functionality and that we plan to continue working on it to improve it. You’ll find that it is rough around the edges. Many sites still don’t work (please let us know when you find one) and various functionality is not supported (e.g. sites that require more than just one username and one password, using the Dapp linker on login Dapps, etc.). However, the functionality is rich and opens many doors, and so we’re releasing it in its current form with the hopes of improving it with your help. A lot of code was added and changed to support this, so if you find bugs, please tell us and we’ll get right on it. The PHP5 SDK has been updated to support login Dapps – the PHP4 and Java SDKs will be updated soon.
You can also read our updated FAQs if you have additional questions (or just drop us an email). As always, thanks for using Dapper and for any feedback you can provide.