Today in APIs: You've got Gmail—in Radically New Formats, Thanks to the New API

Greg Bates
Jun. 30 2014, 05:13PM EDT

Google releases new Gmail API to give finer grained control and greater speed, potentially exploding the number of use cases. More on the implications of Netflix closing its API. Plus: check in to your hotel room with your phone, and Android offers a new camera API.

Google's Gmail API Could Herald an Explosion of Use Cases

Why bother even releasing an API for a mail client like Gmail? Beyond being able to share something, do we really need our email integrated into the latest shoot-em up video game? And APIs that integrate email into third party clients focused on email, such as giving he ability to schedule release of email at a later date, are good but old hat. In contrast, the new Gmail API does something different--you can gain access control. So if the only reason to use email from an app is to send email, then access to reading email can be blocked. And search capabilities are much more powerful.
 

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As Tyler Hayes writes in FastCompany we could well see an explosion of inventive uses:

Another top extension for Gmail is Play My Inbox [featured above]. The app turns a user's inbox into a jukebox by scanning messages to find threads containing songs. It then displays the songs in new visual manner. With the new Gmail API, the clever use cases should only increase from here on out.

This doesn't replace IMAP, but does replace SMTP for mail sending. The API is in beta beginning this last week of June. Resources for a quick start are already online.

The Netflix API Closure Could be the Tip of the Iceberg

As our own Patricio Robles reported earlier in June, the Netflix decision to close its API is a sign of a larger shift toward focusing APIs for internal use and perhaps a diminishing return on the strategy of releasing an API for an unknown number of developers who might or might not do something nifty with it.
 

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Now the issue is being covered by the general media. As Megan Garber writes in The Atlantic, the ramifications could be far reaching:

So it's hard not to see the closure of the Netflix API, on top of the closure of all the other APIs, as symbolic in its own way—of a new era of the web that is less concerned with outreach, and more concerned with consolidation. A web controlled by companies that prefer their own way of doing things, without external input. A web that takes the productive enthusiasms of independent developers and says, essentially, "Thanks, but no thanks."

The chilling effect, she notes, comes in when developers realize that their hard work to build an app that depends on data through a third party API could be wiped out on a whim, when the company that built the API changes business strategy. Developer reluctance may make it harder in turn for those companies offering public APIs to entice developers to use their APIs. Perhaps we will see the advent of a contract: if you use our API, we promise to maintain your access to it and the data it delivers until a certain date. That could at least clarify the length of the payoff a developer could expect from creating an app.

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Greg Bates A writer for Programmableweb since 2012, Greg is a freelance writer and a maniacal editor of dissertations and term papers. - Follow me on Google+

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