Creating a corporation tracker

I've been playing with the idea of creating a wiki-like corporation tracker. The idea is to create a public database containing information on national corporations and their relationships to one another. I'm still working out the details of what data will be stored, though, and I'd like some input.

The case where one corporation is a subsidiary of another is the most relevant to the project, but there are many other ways in which companies can be related. For example, MSNBC is a cooperative venture of MSN and NBC. I'll want to cover which brands are owned by whom, and at what level a corporation is incorporated: local, state, national, or international.

The app would update the database any time a merger occurred or a user discovered another corporation not already in the database. I also want to have a history feature, so that updates can be tracked over time and data isn't lost.

I plan to do my development over at Ning, which seems well-suited to this type of project. If anyone has experience developing apps in the Ning framework (or any other framework), I'd appreciate any advice I can get.

Responses: 9 so far Feed icon

  1. Tim says:


    I have used several frameworks spread across as many languages and maybe could help with the initial design and architecture. I have not used PHP on a project in a couple years so thats a skosh rusty. Let me know.

    Oh, I remember a site that did some of what you are talking about, but it seems to be gone. Perhaps your app will do it better...

  2. Tim McCormack says:

    I think I need to do some research regarding corporate structure and relationships before I can even consider the architecture of the database. I'll let you know when I have more information, then maybe you can help me translate the data realm into the app realm.

    I did try looking around for a site with similar aims, but I couldn't find one. I wouldn't know what to use as search terms, anyway.

  3. Sally Carson says:

    I love this idea! Personally I think it would be really helpful to have a site like this available as a reference as I'm reading news stories that involve companies. It would allow you to do a bit more detective work behind the scenes to try and dig up the story behind the story!

  4. Tim McCormack says:

    Yup. I'm planning on making the database available through an API, like Flickr and Google Maps do.

    Imagine being in the grocery store with your Bluetooth device, wondering why a certain brand of food sounds so familiar. You punch the brand name into a program on your PDA, and it retrieves the corporation's name and a short summary from Wikipedia. You find that the corporation also manufactures pesticides and cigarettes, and decide to buy a competitor's brand instead.

    That's the eventual goal.

    (By the way, if anyone wants to take this idea and run with it -- go for it!)

  5. Tim says:

    The thought occurs to me that one of our own local companys (SNL) would have skads of info about corporate structure, ownership, governance, etc...of course it cost alot to purchase their datafeed. Perhaps acquiring the names of the top 500 companies from which all others derive their root ownership is possible and the rest of the world fills in the properties/attributes/metadata as it evolves.

    Your idea has me wondering who the root corps are...and would the answer suprise me?

  6. James Weber says:

    I don't know if we talked about this, but there is a company called CapitalIQ in NY that does this on a larger scale and sells it to investment bankers et al. I know they track CEOs as they move from company to company and I am sure they must track mergers, etc too. However, it costs lots of $$. Researching it could give you some good background.

    To the point of using it to choose socially responsible and natural companies, thats a interesting idea. I know my sister would love that!

  7. Tim McCormack says:

    I may just leave this idea out here for the taking, because I've got a new project now -- and this one is taking off. I've bought a domain and hosting space, and the coding has begun. I'll post details in the coming week.

  8. Sally Carson says:

    Hey Tim, I just found this the other day - click through the first few screens and you'll get to a Flash-based visual diagram of companies and who their Directors are. It's not the best for randomly discovering relationships between the many companies since you have to poke around somewhat blindly to make connections. But, it's useful if you had a targeted search, like if you specifically wanted to find out about Procter & Gamble and their relationships with other companies.

  9. Tim McCormack says:

    Sally, this is an excellent find. Thank you so much!

    I might be able to use their database to bootstrap mine.

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