There were two stories announced today with a couple of fairly obvious reactions.

  1. Story: Google Replaces SOAP API with AJAX widget

    Obvious Misinterpretation: Google Search API? - mistakes a Web service endpoint the widget talks to for a sanctioned API

    Obvious Reaction: The end of SOAP

  2. Story: announces AJAX widget

    Obvious Misinterpretation: API for URL top tags, bookmark count - mistakes the web service endpoint the widget talks to for a sanctioned API

    Obvious Reaction: God bless the re-inventers - complains that the "new API" uses JSON instead of XML-RPC

The obvious reaction was to make the Google and announcements into a REST vs. SOAP or XML vs. JSON story since geeks like to turn every business decision into a technology decision. However if you scratch the surface, the one thing that is slowly becoming clear is that providers of data services would rather provide you their data in ways they can explicitly monetize (e.g. driving traffic to their social bookmarking site or showing their search ads) instead of letting you drain their resources for free no matter how much geek cred it gets them in the blogosphere.

This is a good thing because it means that as an industry we are slowly figuring out why and how to provide Web APIs and Web services and when not to.

PS: If you are a site that thrives on user generated content this doesn't mean that you should replace APIs that make it easier to add content to your site (e.g. the MetaWeblog API, Flickr API or the API) with a widget. That would make you an idiot.


Thursday, December 21, 2006 4:38:48 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Conversely, it's a bad thing in the sense that free lunches are good while they last. Other people monetizing things that used to be free doesn't exactly fill me with glee.
Thursday, December 21, 2006 5:18:18 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
>> That would make you an idiot.

Jeez, tell us how you really feel Dare. :)

Is it possible that "Release REST AJAX Widget" is the missing step #2 from the Underpants Gnomes' 3-step business plan!?! []
Thursday, December 21, 2006 6:23:10 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Aw crap...there goes the idea of Microsoft stepping in to save the day.
Thursday, December 21, 2006 7:31:24 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

My INITIAL misinterpretation came from the name "Search API" in several links (and at the head of the Google docs page).

My post was a post-mortem on my realization that there was indeed no "web service" here but rather a browser widget.

Thursday, December 21, 2006 9:06:21 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
When I was a kid, the webmasters used to say "no bots". Maybe Google should stick their API endpoint in robots.txt.
Thursday, December 21, 2006 3:21:11 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
You do say it doesn't qualify as a "web service" in your blog post. However you also call it a 'significant step backwards'. It would be a step backwards if it was meant to be an API, it isn't.

Instead it is simply a change of strategy from one that added no value to Google to one that does. It does not signal the start of a trend that has anything to do with web service technologies.
Thursday, December 21, 2006 5:09:23 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
It is not clear to me how is going to monetize their "widget". What they are doing is making it much easier for folks to get *their* information via AJAX without dealing with crossing the domain boundary.

I think the same holds true for Google. They are making it easier for folks to place a Google search on their site. I think its a mistake to kill the SOAP service, but it was non-commercial and limited to 1000 queries a day - which made it hard to use.
Thursday, December 21, 2006 5:17:18 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Mike Moore,
The widget is an unpaid ad for on the target site AND MORE IMPORTANTLY it drives traffic to Both of which can actually be measured on the bottom line.

The same goes for the Google widget which in addition shows ads which makes Google mucho dinero.

It's unsurprising that geeks are focusing on what format the widgets use to get data back from the parent service as if that is the important thing. Joshua Schachter has already posted at to clearly state that the service endpoint used by the widget is NOT an officially sanctioned API for
Thursday, December 21, 2006 5:30:56 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I'm not so much focusing on the format as I am the potential for using the APIs. There are lots of sites and blogs that already place links to Folks want to do that. So showing how many people have bookmarked the page and what tags they used is somewhat helpful, but that is kinda difficult unless the JavaScript/JSON script comes from the domain. Its not impossible, but probably more work for most bloggers. So the simply place a link instead. I don't see a conspiracy, I don't see an overt grab for more money, I see listening to its users.

However, I see Google slightly different. I wish they would have opened up the SOAP API a bit more, and made it more usable in the real world. But it was never really that useful.

While I'm on the subject, allows you to get search results in XML and RSS formats, but the copyright element forbids any interesting use of the data. Also not that useful.
Sunday, December 24, 2006 1:18:37 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Dare, you're very smart.
But not always.
Would you like to guess when you're not being smart?
Peter Tork
Sunday, December 24, 2006 12:57:42 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
As an interesting sidenote about widgets: you must be cautious what you include on your page. Read my entire post about the dangers of including third party javascript code on your site on my blog:
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