The Google Directions Web Service web service calculates directions between locations using an REST request. Directions may specify origins, destinations and waypoints either as text strings (e.g. "Chicago, IL") or as latitude/longitude coordinates. The Directions web service can return multi-part directions using a series of waypoints.
Last week we attended Google's developer conference, along with over 5,000 others. The company was so rife with announcements that many didn't make it to the keynote stage. That was the case with just about all of the API updates, including a handful of impressive new features in the popular Google Maps API.
At Google I/O, the developer conference in San Francisco taking place this week, the search giant announced a Siri-like service, Google Now. Users can ask questions and get answers directly in what they call "smart cards." Those cards, with flight delays and sports scores, update automatically. And you'd better believe that within each of these cards is an API call.
The Google Maps API naturally has a rich history on ProgrammableWeb. Over the last year or so, Google has released additional maps-related APIs as separate services. One of the latest ones is the Google Distance Matrix API. This allows a developer to submit a matrix of locations, as origins and destinations, and get a list of the distances in return.
Online mapping pioneer MapQuest is using open data to provide transit directions via its MapQuest Directions API and the OpenStreetMap-based MapQuest Open Directions API. In both cases, transit directions are based on the Google-created GTFS data standard that helps transit agencies share their routes, schedules and fares in a consistent format. Currently MapQuest's support is limited to six U.S. metro areas.
There are a number of factors coming together to fuel the growth of APIs. Without a doubt, one is the corresponding growth of mobile devices and the distribution of services across multiple platforms. An API is often required to create one native mobile application and becomes incredibly important when supporting many devices. Sometimes these private APIs are made public, sometimes they aren't.
Developers have long requested direct access to driving directions data from Google. Now they've got it, Google announced today at its I/O conference. The feature comes after MapQuest who became the first major player to offer its directions as a web service for free.