I've been reading the Google Data APIs blog for a few months and have been impressed at how Google has been quietly executing on the plan of having a single uniform RESTful Web service interface to their various services. If you are unfamiliar with GData, you can read the GData overview documentation. In a nutshell, GData is Google's implementation of the Atom 1.0 syndication format and the Atom Publishing Protocol with some extensions. It is a RESTful XML-based protocol for reading and writing information on the Web. Currently one can use GData to manipulate and access data from the following Google services

with more on the way. Contrast this with the API efforts on Yahoo! Developer Network or Windows Live Dev which are an inconsistent glop of incompatible RESTful protocols, SOAP APIs and XML-RPC methods all under the same roof. In the Google case, an app that can read and write data to Blogger can also do so to Google Calendar or Picasa Web Albums with minimal changes. This is not the case when using APIs provided by two Yahoo! services (e.g. Flickr and del.icio.us) or two Windows Live services (e.g. Live Search and Windows Live Spaces) which use completely different protocols, object models and authentication mechanisms even though provided by the same vendor.

One way to smooth this disparity is to provide client libraries that aim to provide a uniform interface to all of the vendors services. However even in that case, the law of leaky abstractions holds. Thus the fact that these services use different protocols, object models and authentication mechanisms ends up surfacing in the client library. Secondly, not only is it now possible to create a single library that knows how to talk to all of Google's existing and future Web services since they all use GData. It is also a lot easier to provide "tooling" for these services than it would be for Yahoo's family of Web services given that they use a simple and uniform interface. So far none of the big Web vendors have done a good job of providing deep integration with popular development environments like Eclipse or Visual Studio. However I suspect that when they do, Google will have an easier time than the others due to the simplicity and uniform interface that is GData.


Categories: Web Development | XML Web Services
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