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Google Deprecates SOAP Search API

by Stefan Tilkov on Dec 19, 2006 |

Quietly, Google has deprecated its SOAP Search API, withdrawing one of the most prominent examples of Web service usage on the Internet. The remaining AJAX Search API is only a partial replacement.

The Google SOAP Search API enabled its users to submit search, cache, and spelling requests by means of SOAP 1.1 (using RPC/encoded style) . The service was described page now displays a prominent notice:

As of December 5, 2006, we are no longer actively supporting the SOAP Search API. We encourage you to use the AJAX Search API instead.

Google Product Manager Tom Stocky clarified what this change actually means for developers in a posting to the Google Web APIs discussion group:

Just to clarify, we're not planning to shut off the SOAP Search API service for people who are already using it. The change is that we're not accepting new requests for SOAP Search API keys and are no longer actively supporting it so that we can concentrate our efforts on the AJAX Search API.

The AJAX Search API Tom refers to is a Javascript library that enables embedding Google Search in web pages; using it for back-end tasks (as was possible with the SOAP Search API) does not seem like something that is intended or supported. While the AJAX Search adds some features, such as the ability to search video, news, maps, and blogs, it lacks support for filtering, specifying languages, and the direct cache and spelling access. (It's also questionable whether it's AJAX at all, as it does not actally use XmlHttpRequest.)

Some reactions from the blogosphere view this as another sign of the declining acceptance of SOAP-based Web services on the Internet, such as Steve Loughran, whose post is titled "The end of SOAP" and is concluded with this line:

Slowly, all over the world, the lights on the SOAP endpoints are going out.

This seems a premature declaration of victory for the REST folks in the eternal REST-vs.-SOAP debate, though, as Google does not offer any comparable API at all ( (in contrast to Yahoo!, who have had a REST API for quite some time). Dave Megginson highlights this aspect:

Google’s search API let you send a search query to Google from your web site’s backend, get the results, then do anything you want with them: show them on your web page, mash them up with data from other sites, etc. The replacement, Google AJAX API, forces you to hand over part of your web page to Google so that Google can display the search box and show the results the way they want (with a few token user configuration options), just as people do with Google AdSense ads or YouTube videos. Other than screen scraping, like in the bad old days, there’s no way for you to process the search results programmatically — you just have to let Google display them as a black box (so to speak) somewhere on your page.

Whether Google's decision is based more on business reasons or on technical aspects, it's definitely sad to see one of the most well-known (and easily understandable) examples of Web services disappear. But as John Gruber writes:

They did call it a “beta”, though.

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Not a big deal by Sam Pullara

Use the Yahoo Search API. Higher daily limits and REST based with commercial licensing available for heavy users.

www.programmableweb.com/api/Yahoo

Re: Not a big deal by Ivan L

I also suspect Google will relaunch their SOAP (or a REST version) with commercial value attached to it. It would be a serious misstep to force everyone to use their "ajax" alternative; especially those who want count the availability of pure data.

Re: Not a big deal by John Reynolds

This decision really is all about business... Services must make economic sense, or they can't be offered. It has nothing to do with technical merit.

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