Google has now made its closely-guarded Google Places API available to all developers, after nearly a year in closed beta. The API, first announced a year ago, returns business listings based on location. The search giant also added features that make the service useful for many types of local applications, in addition to simplifying the authentication process. With additional agreements, Google also allows for a healthy 100,000 queries, versus only 1,000 standard calls.
Google's announcement highlights some updates:
- A globally consistent type scheme for Places, spanning more than 100 types such as bar, restaurant, and lodging
- Name and type based query support
- A significantly simpler key based authentication scheme
- Global coverage across every country covered by Google Maps
- Google APIs Console integration, which provides group ownership of projects, key management, and usage monitoring
- Instant reflection of new Places submitted by an app in subsequent searches made by that app, with new Places shared with all apps after moderation
- Real time reranking of search results based on current check-in activity, so that Places that are currently popular are automatically ranked higher in searches by your app
Perhaps most notable is the key-based authentication scheme. Previously every call to the service had to be signed with a hash, requiring server-side processing. Still, developers may still run calls through the server, as otherwise API keys would become public. Nevertheless, this change makes it much easier to get up and running.
The additional features, which include searching by name and category, means Google Places can now be used in many types of applications. At launch one could only look up a list of businesses based on a location, with no ability to filter the results. This restricted Places to a check-in use case, probably due to being used internally for Google Buzz Mobile. Now fully-featured, developers can create applications that use local listings in many ways.
Also making Places more viable are the generous daily limits. With 100,000 calls, developers can bring their applications to much more maturity than with only 1,000. To get the additional limits requires two steps just one step:
- Activate billing and include a credit card in Google's API console (see Billing)
- Create an OAuth client ID within the console (see API Access)
Google stresses that developers won't be charged and the credit card is only required for verification. Still, with valuable local data, one can see a future where Google may charge for significant usage. Billing is already enabled for two APIs in its console: Google Custom Search API and Google Prediction API.
As a part of Places' move out of private beta, Google also made an autocomplete service available for providing place name suggestions as the user types, a useful tool for decreasing keystrokes.
Google Places is one of nearly 50 local APIs in our directory.