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The real lesson from Google's SOAP Search API saga

By now everyone has read about Google deprecating the SOAP Search API in favor of its AJAX Search API. As has been pointed out, this is not about the technology war, ie; SOAP vs. REST and REST winning the day, but about a business decision by a vendor on eliminating multiple ways of doing the same thing from its product/service portfolio (I read this as a quote from Google co-founder Sergey Brin but can't find the reference on the web right now).

Some people, including me, don't think that SOAP Search API and AJAX Search API are two different ways of doing the same thing. In fact, I am little miffed, for I used the SOAP Search API as an example in one of the very early Web Services presentations which, though obsoleted by newer technologies and toolkits, still enjoys good readership. I am sure that there are many more authors and presenters like me who used this API to showcase the technology and are currently feeling being betrayed by Google. Thankfully, these examples won't stop working. It is just that they can't be used as starting point for adding more search features.

From a business perspective, it certainly makes sense for Google to back AJAX Search API that promotes Google brand to many more eyeballs than the SOAP Search API that relegates it to the backyard of few third party applications. Essentially, the AJAX API has better business value to Google than the SOAP API and they are using this to drive a business decision.

And this is the real lesson for me. At the end of the day, it is the economic viability that guarantees continued existence of any service or product and not the do-good feel-good factor. In fact, I won't be surprised if Yahoo and Microsoft also follow suit and deprecate their SOAP/REST APIs. And that may not be a bad thing. Perhaps absence of these free APIs would make Alexa's paid service more viable and lasting.

Comments (1)

Their decision to do this was both disheartening and a blow to our dependence on their developer tools. Our response was to create the EvilAPI as a work around until Google provides a supported and viable option for developers.

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