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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Reactions on Discontinuation of Google API

Google some days ago announced they are stopping any support for the Google web search SOAP API. While the API remains active with no plans to kill it off completely, as a Google spokesperson informed me, it is only working some of the time, and using an unsupported & flaky API – as any developer can tell you – is almost as risky as screenscraping (the act of just grabbing search results by parsing Google’s HTML). Camden Daily is an API developer, and he told me his personal Google API story. Camden emphasized he doesn’t want to be seen as Google-bashing as he never could have built his business without Google’s help, but still, he’s currently angry about the whole thing:

3-4 years ago, I developed the little spellcheck plugin for library catalogs. I figured some libraries might be interested, so I contacted Google. They went ahead and granted me a loose commercial license, and increased API usage of 25k hits per day (as far as I know, I’m the only one that ever got the commercial license and increased usage.) The legal department even gave me permission to use the Google trademark in my advertising.

I was psyched, and figured that Google would eventually grant me more usage for a fee when I needed it. After a few years of working out bugs and figuring out the business side, I released the service to the public. I’ve had a considerable amount of interest. About this time last year, I was in discussion with some people on the Google API team and they seemed rather serious about ’productizing’ the API some time soon.

So I waited, and waited, and waited, and waited. The Google API team stopped responding to all messages. No one was ever on the forums. The server’s performance degraded considerably. I have entire consortia of libraries interested in my product, but I’m already at the max number of requests I can do per day, with no hope of getting more.

I started looking into other options, including Yahoo and Microsoft. Of the two, Microsoft has been by far more responsive. I think they already have commercial users of the Live API, but only on very large scales. They seem nearly ready to release a commercial version for smaller users. Not only are they more responsive, but the API works in multiple languages and at a much greater speed.

All-in-all, I can honestly say I would never, ever touch a Google API again unless I couldn’t get the same thing from Yahoo or Microsoft, and didn’t have any intention of trying to make money off of the development. I have no idea why they let this service die off...

Jon Henshaw on the other hands finds strong words as well as a potential solution... albeit one that seems to violate the Google ToS:

As you know, Google royally screwed over developers by discontinuing their support for their SOAP Search API. This really affects us, because we have several online tools (like yourself) that use it extensively. As a result, one of our developers just got finished writing a new API that will do most of what the old API did and we’re calling it EvilAPI. We even have a hosted service up and running for people to test the code on.


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