Who is ChemZoo relative to ChemSpider? Will it stay free?

27 Apr

A recent blogger identified ChemSpider as being a commercial entity. I’d like to clear that up. Yes, it is. It’s a company….a corporation in fact. Why? Because we have wives and families to take care of. We live in a litigious society and we are protecting our families.  We know that many commercial organizations will not take kindly to what we are trying to do with ChemSpider. In fact, as will be evidenced by some blogs to be posted here in the next few days, some members of the Open Source community don’t seem to support what we’re trying to do.


ChemZoo is a corporation. ChemSpider is free. FREE. There are no charges to use any services. ChemSpider is self-financed. All hardware, software and costs associated with running ChemSpider come from the bank accounts of the ChemSpider team. No venture capital. No sponsorship. No Google Adwords. Will it stay this way?


Fact: ChemSpider is getting hundreds of unique visitors per day. Actually it went over 1000 visitors per day based on a posting at another blog.


Fact: It is performing thousands of transactions and searches per day. In less than one month we have received blessings from a number of users and ire from others. But no press is bad press and our “Google Exposure” has us rank at over 110,000 hits as of  today (some do use this as a measure of success)


Fact: We opened ChemSpider based on the PubChem data source. This was declared on the website the day we went live. In less than one month we have taken delivery of close to a million new structures to post on ChemSpider. We do not yet know how many will be unique until de-duplicated. Some of these collaborators have required that we sign contracts …yes, ChemZoo is indeed a business.


So, will ChemSpider always be free? The intention is a resounding yes. However, it is clear we may have to seek sponsorship. Our data collection is growing quickly. We WILL have to add an additional server shortly. No choice really if we don’t want to disappoint the chemistry community. We have had companies approach us about integrating paid services to ChemSpider. That might happen. But, the basic capabilities of ChemSpider, and the layering of tools to encourage the growth of a chemical community around a structure centric database, will remain free for everyone. Unless there is a need to charge to help pay off legal bills in this, our litigious society.


About tony

Antony (Tony) J. Williams received his BSc in 1985 from the University of Liverpool (UK) and PhD in 1988 from the University of London (UK). His PhD research interests were in studying the effects of high pressure on molecular motions within lubricant related systems using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. He moved to Ottawa, Canada to work for the National Research Council performing fundamental research on the electron paramagnetic resonance of radicals trapped in single crystals. Following his postdoctoral position he became the NMR Facility Manager for Ottawa University. Tony joined the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York as their NMR Technology Leader. He led the laboratory to develop quality control across multiple spectroscopy labs and helped establish walk-up laboratories providing NMR, LC-MS and other forms of spectroscopy to hundreds of chemists across multiple sites. This included the delivery of spectroscopic data to the desktop, automated processing and his initial interests in computer-assisted structure elucidation (CASE) systems. He also worked with a team to develop the worlds’ first web-based LIMS system, WIMS, capable of allowing chemical structure searching and spectral display. With his developing cheminformatic skills and passion for data management he left corporate America to join a small start-up company working out of Toronto, Canada. He joined ACD/Labs as their NMR Product Manager and various roles, including Chief Science Officer, during his 10 years with the company. His responsibilities included managing over 50 products at one time prior to developing a product management team, managing sales, marketing, technical support and technical services. ACD/Labs was one of Canada’s Fast 50 Tech Companies, and Forbes Fast 500 companies in 2001. His primary passions during his tenure with ACD/Labs was the continued adoption of web-based technologies and developing automated structure verification and elucidation platforms. While at ACD/Labs he suggested the possibility of developing a public resource for chemists attempting to integrate internet available chemical data. He finally pursued this vision with some close friends as a hobby project in the evenings and the result was the ChemSpider database ( Even while running out of a basement on hand built servers the website developed a large community following that eventually culminated in the acquisition of the website by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) based in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Tony joined the organization, together with some of the other ChemSpider team, and became their Vice President of Strategic Development. At RSC he continued to develop cheminformatics tools, specifically ChemSpider, and was the technical lead for the chemistry aspects of the Open PHACTS project (, a project focused on the delivery of open data, open source and open systems to support the pharmaceutical sciences. He was also the technical lead for the UK National Chemical Database Service ( and the RSC lead for the PharmaSea project ( attempting to identify novel natural products from the ocean. He left RSC in 2015 to become a Computational Chemist in the National Center of Computational Toxicology at the Environmental Protection Agency where he is bringing his skills to bear working with a team on the delivery of a new software architecture for the management and delivery of data, algorithms and visualization tools. The “Chemistry Dashboard” was released on April 1st, no fooling, at, and provides access to over 700,000 chemicals, experimental and predicted properties and a developing link network to support the environmental sciences. Tony remains passionate about computer-assisted structure elucidation and verification approaches and continues to publish in this area. He is also passionate about teaching scientists to benefit from the developing array of social networking tools for scientists and is known as the ChemConnector on the networks. Over the years he has had adjunct roles at a number of institutions and presently enjoys working with scientists at both UNC Chapel Hill and NC State University. He is widely published with over 200 papers and book chapters and was the recipient of the Jim Gray Award for eScience in 2012. In 2016 he was awarded the North Carolina ACS Distinguished Speaker Award.
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Posted by on April 27, 2007 in Vision


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