NUM launches in the UK, enabling developers & companies to bypass the gatekeepers of the web


London-based start-up NUM today announced it has launched its open standard for companies to provide machine-readable data direct to users.  As part of the launch, NUM has published free, unrestricted access to 23 million data points about 4.8m UK companies, available to everyone building apps, services, assistants and more.

 Funded by Innovate UK and UK angel investment, NUM is a response to the limitations imposed the gatekeepers of the web – the giants of the Internet that have crawled, scraped and harvested data from the public web and locked it up in proprietary databases, then built privacy-compromising apps, services and entire ecosystems on top of that data.

NUM is an alternative to the Web and is built on top of the Domain Name System (DNS), it provides data that has only previously been available through APIs offered by the web’s gatekeepers. Unlike APIs, access to NUM data is available to developers free, unlimited and unrestricted. Any domain owner can override their pre-populated data by adding NUM records to their own DNS or claim and update their pre-populated records using a simple user interface.

Elliott Brown, inventor of NUM explains:

“The Semantic Web was supposed to make information about organisations, people, places and things machine-readable.  In the original vision, all of our devices would be able to understand any organisation and its offerings based solely on their website. But the truth is that today the Web enables us to do none of these things.

“This ever-increasing need for machine-readable data has resulted in the rise of centralised APIs offered by the giants of the web. Companies like Alphabet have built an empire by crawling the web, indexing its content and storing it. They’ve built devices, apps, services, operating systems and entire ecosystems on top of this data.

“Developers looking to build apps that use machine-readable data face two options: Crawl the web as Alphabet have done, store that data and try to keep it up to date; or use a paid, restricted, rate limited API.

“This has stifled the creativity of millions of developers and users are left with little choice but to use privacy-compromising apps offered by the giants of the web.

“But there is an alternative: a way for companies to provide machine-readable data direct to devices, apps and services used by customers. This is NUM – an open standard to publish machine-readable data associated with domain names.”

Any organisation can update the data stored in NUM by adopting the standard or by using a simple user-friendly interface – NUM Server. NUM data is made available in DNS because it’s one of the most efficient ways to store and serve key pieces of data. By storing and serving data using DNS, NUM can offer untracked, unlimited and unrestricted use.

As an example of the data in action, NUM has unveiled CompanyDirectory.UK – a directory of some of the UK’s largest companies, with all of their contact information provided in a simple, searchable list.

Brown concludes:

“Businesses and developers alike shouldn’t be at the mercy of the gatekeepers of the web to provide useful information and services to customers. It is time to level the playing field.”