Google courts developers

Google has gifted developers with a suite of new tools aimed at easing access to functions in Google's search engines

Valentine's Day is months away, but Google displayed its ardor for developers by delivering to them this week a programming equivalent of a box of chocolates and a dozen red roses.

With several new and upgraded programming tools, Google continued it courtship of external developers, a group it considers key for the successful adoption of its online services.

The new tools make it easier for developers to access functions in Google's search engines, Base repository of product listings and lightweight 'gadget' Web applications. Google also introduced a search engine tuned to find publicly available source code.

Despite its size and might, Google believes that it benefits greatly from allowing programmers that aren't on its staff to build Web applications that use Google services and data. These can be hobbyists, professional programmers or corporate developers.

These external coders often come up with applications, plug-ins and Web sites that extend and enhance Google services in ways that Google staffers don't think of. For example, Google Maps has become the core to myriad "mashups" from external developers.

Other large Internet companies that woo external programmers with incentives and tools include Yahoo, Amazon.com and eBay, all for similar reasons behind Google's outreach efforts.

This week, Google upgraded its AJAX Search API (application programming interface), designed to simplify adding a search box to a site and displaying results without taking users to a separate page. The API also allows the creation of applications that use Google search functions.

Meanwhile, Google also created a new utility that automatically feeds inventory data to Google Base from stores hosted by Amazon.com, eBay and Yahoo on their respective e-commerce platforms.

This new Store Connector is designed to save online store developers from manually entering their product listings into Google Base. Products listed on Google Base can appear in Google.com search results, with a link to the store selling them.

Another overture toward external developers this week was the release of almost 1,300 'gadget' mini-applications for use in non-Google Web sites. Previously, they could only be used in Google sites. In addition to benefiting site publishers, the wider availability of these gadgets will provide more exposure for external developers who have created them.

Finally, Google unveiled a new search engine intended to simplify the often tedious and time-consuming task of finding source code online. Unlike the Google.com Web search engine, this one, at http://www.google.com/codesearch, crawls deeply into program files and returns snippets from lines of code with links to the file they belong to.

Eric Bessette, a Web developer for a large game company, plans to use the search API in a current project and foresees doing future projects in which displaying Google gadgets would be beneficial.

"I'm quite impressed with what Google has offered the development community so far, and I'm eagerly awaiting future offers," Bessette wrote in an e-mail interview.

More information about Google's developer tools and services can be found at http://code.google.com.

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