Google's API for APIs Makes Sense of Its 80+ Services

Adam DuVander
May. 10 2011, 01:57PM EDT

The number of services Google makes available via API has expanded rapidly. We currently list over 80 Google APIs. To deal with the responsibility of supporting that many APIs, the company has spent the last year moving many services to a new architecture. As part of that process, it created the Google APIs Discovery API, to help both internal and external developers make sense of what's available and how each service is accessed.

That's right, Google has an API for its APIs. Currently only 13 are supported, but we'd expect the company to continue expanding the list as it updates to the new infrastructure. In its announcement post, Google described the metadata available from its new API:

  • A directory of supported APIs.
  • A "Discovery document" for each of the supported APIs that includes:
  • A list of API resource schemas based on JSON Schema.
  • A list of API methods and available parameters for each method.
  • A list of available OAuth 2.0 scopes.
  • Inline documentation of methods, parameters, and available parameter values.
  • The new API is a welcome move toward a future of machine-decipherable APIs. Internally Google uses its Discovery API to automatically generate client libraries, as well as to power its Google API explorer. The latter has now been open sourced as an example of something that can be built with the Discovery API.

    There are other ways of describing APIs. For SOAP APIs, there are WSDL files that show methods of inputs. For REST there is WADL, but even its apparent simplicity has been too complex for some. At the very least, support for WADL has been minimal. It's unclear whether Google has created generic enough to work for other API providers. However, it's obviously something that Google saw the need for, at least internally.

    The Google API Discovery API is one of two APIs for APIs. The other is our own ProgrammableWeb API, which provides programmatic access to our directory of APIs.

    Adam DuVander -- Adam heads developer relations at Orchestrate, a database-as-a-service company. He's spent many years analyzing APIs and developer tools. Previously he worked at SendGrid, edited ProgrammableWeb and wrote for Wired and Webmonkey. Adam is also the author of mapping API cookbook Map Scripting 101.

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    [...] Well, I had yet another launch at Google. This one is as geeky as it gets – the Google APIs Discovery Service. It’s essentially an API that lists and describes other Google APIs. You can read the launch announcement on Google’s Code Blog or a few other sites such as PC World and Programmable Web. [...]