Google has launched a Google+ developers’ page, perhaps signaling that full-featured API access is in the near future for the rapidly growing social network.
Engage Google+ “Developers”
There has been frequent criticism and questions about Google Plus’ lackluster developer access. Google has offered a limited read-only development interface and a 1+ badge since September, but no official mechanisms to build the third-party tools that are common for other social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. In frustration, some developers have even created their own unofficial APIs, but they are fragile; any change to Google Plus’ implementation could make the renegade APIs useless.
Although Google+ continues to grow quickly, the anemic interface access is definitely a visible deficiency. Things may be changing soon. Google has launched a developers’ page, which will feature news and events about the Google Plus platform. According to Chris Chabot, Google+ Developer Relations Team Lead, there will also be a weekly hangout every Wednesday from 11:30am to 12:15am PDT. Potential developers can RSVP on Google developers' site or gain access to the hangout from the developers’ page. The public seems to be interested. Almost 20,000 people are already following the new page, which currently features no news on the progress of the API.
Vic Gundotra, Google’s Senior Vice President, Engineering, made the last official statement on the Google+ API at the Web 2.0 Summit in October. In what may have been a little jab at Twitter, Gundotra said Google was being cautious about releasing a full API and that Google didn’t want to do anything rash that they may have to roll back. Twitter has long exposed its API to developers, driving rapid expansion of the social network. However, the success also brought platform problems that eventually prompted Twitter to throttle developer access, effectively destroying several third-party tool providers dependent on the service.
Google will be interacting with developers and answering their questions using their new page and Hangouts. Several followers have already predictably asked about when the API is coming. Google has made no response. Hopefully, Google will be cataloging the feedback and delivering an API quickly for what will likely be an enthusiastic developer community.
Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with the missing API. I sometime long for Google Plus to be added to my favorite social media tools to enable one-stop viewing and posting. However, I do not miss the content redundancy that is now so common in my collective social media streams. Google Plus is not absent of the normal viral content and Internet memes, but the content does seem to be slightly more differentiated. I also tend to be aware of new features in Google Plus and other Google products faster because I must visit the site to interact. Perhaps this is what Google intended with its glacial API progress.
Chabot writes that 2012 will be an exciting year for the Google Plus platform. We will see if that means a shiny new API for developers.