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Google+ Releases First APIs

Initial set of application programming interfaces provides access to profiles and activity streams on Google+.

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Google+ is unveiling an initial set of application programming interfaces, focused on providing access to public information on the service, with authorized access to private data presumably to follow.

Chris Chabot of Google developer relations made the announcement on Google+ and on the Google Code blog.

This is not everything developers have been waiting for, which would also include a standardized container model for embedding applications inside Google+. Eventually, Google is likely to build a container model that incorporates OpenSocial, a standard that Google originated.

[For expert analysis on what Google+ is missing, see 5 Ways Google Should Expand Google+]

What Google released Thursday does provide a formal, documented API for access to Google+ profiles and posts, which until now has been something developers were only able to accomplish with primitive screen-scraping techniques. Google is incorporating public standards including OAuth 2.0 for authentication, ActivityStreams for news feeds, and PoCo portable contacts for profile data. API calls are use REST, the Representational State Transfer style of Web services in which data is requested using simple HTTP GET and POST operations, and data is returned in JavaScript Object Notation (JSON), meaning it can be easily processed and displayed within JavaScript widgets.

For example, a call to retrieve a user profile would look something like:

GET https://www.googleapis.com/plus/v1/people/108189587050871927619?key=yourAPIKey

Google also released documentation and code libraries on the Google Developers site. Coder starting kits are available for Java, GWT, Python, Ruby, PHP, and .NET. Using one of the code libraries, you would invoke a function that executes the REST call and retrieves the results, rather than interacting with the API at the HTTP protocol level.

Chabot began his Google+ post with a quote from the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." This is a small step toward the rich API, or set of APIs, developers expect from Google.

Already, the discussion forums are filling up with questions like, "How do I get a list of the users in one of my circles?" and "How do I fetch content for a user without already knowing that person's ID number?" Neither of those questions has a completely satisfying answer just yet, although an app can go through OAuth to identify the current authenticated user (https://www.googleapis.com/auth/plus.me).

It's a start.

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Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/19/2011 | 1:43:09 AM
re: Google+ Releases First APIs
The APIs couldn't have come too soon. I've been talking to a lot of folks who feel like the bloom is off the Google+ rose (for the time being, anyway).

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
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