Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Places everybody, the show is about to begin...

Google I/O 2011 kicked off today, and we have a great line up of sessions on the Geo track. First up this morning was a session on "Connecting people with places", in which we were delighted to announce general availability of the Google Places API.

This represents the culmination of the Developer Preview launched last year, shortly after we introduced the Places API at Google I/O 2010. Interest in the Preview was overwhelming and we have been amazed by the innovative use cases suggested for the API. The developers we worked with provided a great deal of extremely valuable feedback on all aspects of the API, including features, performance, usability, and terms of use.

We’ve been working hard to implement the recommendations we received during the Preview. As a result the service launching today includes many new features, most of which are a direct result of this developer feedback:

  • A globally consistent type scheme for Places, spanning more than 100 types such as bar, restaurant, and lodging
  • Name and type based query support
  • A significantly simpler key based authentication scheme
  • Global coverage across every country covered by Google Maps
  • Google APIs Console integration, which provides group ownership of projects, key management, and usage monitoring
  • Instant reflection of new Places submitted by an app in subsequent searches made by that app, with new Places shared with all apps after moderation
  • Real time reranking of search results based on current check-in activity, so that Places that are currently popular are automatically ranked higher in searches by your app

In addition to these changes we’re also adding a companion Autocomplete service to the Places API, which predicts the Places a user might be looking for as they type. This service is based on the same technology that powers the search field on the Google Maps website, and can dramatically reduce the amount of typing needed when searching for a known place by name, which is particularly valuable on mobile devices.

Both the Places API Search service and the Places API Autocomplete service are offered as XML/JSON REST based web services. These APIs are currently both in Google Code Labs, which means they are not yet included in Maps API Premier. However we are working to graduate the APIs from Code Labs in the near future, at which point the service will also be offered to Maps API Premier developers.

To get started, please follow the instructions in the documentation for obtaining an APIs console key, and enabling the Places API on that key. If you have joined us at Google I/O this year, come along to our session on "Building Location Based apps using Google APIs" at 3pm on Wednesday, in which our Tech Lead, Marcelo Camelo, will be diving into the API in more detail.

In addition to these web services we are also launching a new places library in the Google Maps API which includes:

  • A PlacesService that allows Places API queries to be issued by Maps API applications
  • A class that can attach Autocomplete behaviour to any text field on a web page, with the predicted places biased to a specific location or map viewport

The below demo uses the PlacesService to display Places on a map in response to changes in the map view port. An individual Place can also be mapped using the Autocomplete enabled search field:

If you would like to provide any feedback about the Places API or Maps API, or you have suggestions for improvements or new features, please let us know using the Maps API Issue Tracker. You can also discuss our APIs using the Maps API Developer Forums.

We’re very excited to make all of these great Places services available to all of our Maps API developers today. We know many of you have been eagerly awaiting access to the Places API, and we appreciate your patience. Places bridge the divide between the way that maps and computers represent the world, and the way that people relate to it. We believe that the launch of the Places API will spark a whole new wave of innovative location based application development, both on mobile and desktop, and we can’t wait to see how it is used.