I'm probably the last person on earth who cares about the Google SOAP API launched in 2002, but I have to post about it one last time for completeness. This just came over the wire: Google Code Labs and the SOAP Search API
...the SOAP Search API will be retired on August 31st, 2009. It was deprecated in 2006, when we stopped accepting new developers for the API. Since then, it's been steadily declining in usage and we believe the majority of use cases are sufficiently handled by the more comprehensive AJAX Search API.
I was disappointed about their decision
in 2006 to stop issuing keys for the API, and I suppose shutting it down completely was inevitable. Even with its faults—and its early-moving tax of using the "wrong" technology—it was a real
API. By that I mean you could use the API to create valuable new applications that didn't come from Google's lab. The API was unpredictable (for Google) in the sense that innovation could happen in the outside world. Their current offering (Ajax API) is far too controlled to be a real source of innovation.
So I was already irked to read this news, and then further irked at this part of the announcement (emphasis mine):
Please keep in mind that the AJAX APIs exist for the benefit of end-users; several of their features and usage guidelines are designed with them in mind. For instance, each search performed with the API must be the direct result of a user action. Automated searching is strictly prohibited, as is permanently storing any search results.
Automated searching is the point of having an API. Computers can do wonderful things that humans are too slow or too busy to do. An API lets humans tap into their computer's potential for helping them with searching, research, or collecting information. Automated searching isn't bad
. And it strikes me as hypocritical coming from Google which runs potentially the largest automated process on the Web. Their *gasp* automated
bots scour the web copying every page they can find. If a real human had to request every page that Google copies and indexes they'd need to put everyone on the payroll and still wouldn't have enough fingers to click them all. And if all websites suddenly adopted the policy that automated requests for information were not allowed, Google wouldn't work.
I criticize because I love. Google is a fantastic achievement and I realize it's not a public resource—it's a private enterprise. They have no motivation to open up search innovation beyond their walls. But shutting down this important door and couching it in the language of "for the users" is insulting and unnecessary. Google should own up to the fact that they want complete control over how people use their data, and they want (externally, at least) their data to be used at human speed.