Google API Announcements from Google I/O 2012

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.

Google Maps

The Google Maps family of APIs received the most updates, to both the data and visualization sides.

Map styling is a popular feature. Google Maps styling was first announced in May 2010. At I/O it got its first major change, with even more options to style.

The biggest difference is that developers can now adjust the thickness of lines, which gives a lot of customization to the roads. This is inline with the other ways to style a map.

Transit directions was one of the most-requested features according to Google's Thor Mitchell. Now it's part of both the Google Maps API and Google Directions API.

The announcement post explains the new feature:

It's simple for you to update your apps to also offer routing by public transit in addition to driving, bicycling, and walking. The transit route responses include the number of stops, direction of travel and more. It will also tell you what type of vehicle you will be travelling on.

This follows Apple removing public transit directions from its upcoming iPhone maps app, a puzzling move given that its based on public GTFS data.

Heat maps were one of the core pieces of mapping visualization that had been missing from Google Maps.

Now the company has heat maps, as well as other types of visualizations, according to the geo blog post. Put arrows on polylines and even animate them. Really impressive stuff, completely buried in the craziness of I/O.

Google Places

Alternately bundled with Google Maps and Google Plus Local, the Google Places API has enough going on to warrant a place on its own. Though it looks like there was no blog post for its latest update (update: now posted), the company is providing even more data about business listings.

Google Places results will now show reviews of a place, as well as the hours the business is open. This extended data puts the service further into the realm of the Yelp API and the way Factual is enhancing its data.


There are also a number of improvements to the YouTube API for searching and playing videos. The official announcement details them and includes:

  • Android Player API for embedding mobile videos in apps
  • YouTube Direct for uploading your users' videos to YouTube
  • An analytics API for getting at the data about your video's engagement
  • Universal search and new client libraries for the main YouTube API

Another item got its own post: now your video clip embeds can have both start and end times for excerpting a specific portion of a video.

Google Cloud Platform

Google's cloud offerings now go well beyond the Google App Engine API. That became very clear as the company announced its new Amazon EC2 competitor. The Cloud Computing service runs Linux virtual machines on Google's servers.

The company also announced a new SDK for the Google Drive API. We wrote in April that Google Drive is kind of a big deal.

App Engine also got some update love, with a focus on infrastructure, tools and security.

Google Analytics

The popular site metrics tool behind the Google Analytics API saw a number of new features added during Google I/O. The most notable addition is mobile analytics, the ability to measure engagement within mobile apps.

From the announcement post:

Mobile App Analytics... help marketers and developers better measure their mobile apps. The reports are tailored for mobile app developers and marketers, speaking the language that matters to them. They are designed to measure the entire mobile customer journey - from discovery to download to engagement. This enables the creation of app experiences that are more useful and engaging through data-driven decisions at each stage of the app lifecycle.

There was another mobile analytics announcement, too. Now there's an Android app to access analytics, built on the Google Analytics API.

Google Plus

There may not be a writable Google Plus API, but it is going mobile. The new SDK helps developers include Google Plus in their apps.

Among the features for the Google Plus SDK:

  • "Sign in with Google+"
  • Share plugin to include rich content
  • Extend "+1" to Android and mobile web
  • Add "moments" to Google Plus history

It seems that Google is focusing on the use cases where it wants developers to expand the Plus platform, while maintaining control over how data is added to its service.

Be sure to read the next Events article: Boston to Hold Social Media Analytics and Big Data Conferences