Recently, at SheepDogInc, I have been working with various Google APIs, especially the Calendar API. The state of these APIs is rather unfortunate. Google is a web giant and you’d think that their APIs would be state-of-the-art given the number of professionals they employ.
Before we go anywhere, let me just talk about the documentation for a minute. As an open-source software author and advocate, I always encourage developers to write extensive and good documentation. Somehow, Google didn’t get the demo. Most of their documentation is sparse, incorrect and out-of-date. If you would like to know what data a call returns, you’re better off just making the call and inspecting the response. This will actually save you time because the docs are probably wrong anyway.
Google is like the master of scalability. They have an estimated one million servers world-wide. And yet, they cannot consistently return a 200 to an API call. I have written horrible, horrible glue code and hacky workarounds to account for this unpredictability. Sometimes you will get a response, sometimes it will timeout, sometime you will get a 404…
With all these amazing engineers, can Google really not make a better API? Honestly, if I was in a position to hire a person who worked on the Google API team, I would think twice. Seriously — test your app, keep your docs up-to-date, and mainly, stop pissing me off!
This article was first published on September 13, 2011. As you can see, there are no comments. I invite you to email me with your comments, criticisms, and other suggestions. Even better, write your own article as a response. Blogging is awesome.