Google to block access to unofficial autocomplete API

Yule bee … you'll bee … you'll be butter off … better off without it, says ad giant

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Google has decided the autocomplete API it informally offers will no longer be available for “unauthorised” users as of August 10th.

The company says its autocomplete API has found an audience among “a number of developers” who have used its ability to predict a query before a user finishes typing for uses other than Google's intended application of predicting users' search queries. But Google says those coders did so with “a non-official, non-published API that also had no restrictions on it.” Those who used the API also did so for purposes other than Google Search.

To those developers, Google says that if you live by unpublished, unofficial APIs, you die by them as well.

Or as Google puts it:

However, there are some times when using an unsupported, unpublished API also carries the risk that the API will stop being be available. This is one of those situations.

“In the interest of maintaining the integrity of autocomplete as part of Search,” Google writes, “we will be restricting unauthorized access to the unpublished autocomplete API as of August 10th, 2015. We want to ensure that users experience autocomplete as it was designed to be used -- as a service closely tied to Search. We believe this provides the best user experience for both services.”

Those who want to retain an autocomplete feature on their sites can do so if they sign up for Google's Custom Search Engine.

The company points out that it does offer more than 80 official APIs developers are free to use.

There's irony in that position because developers reverse-engineering Google Maps to create de facto APIs were an important factor in the service's rise to popularity. Autocomplete isn't as widely applicable as a mapping service, nor as likely to build a new stream of users and revenue for Google. It's therefore probably expensive expendible expendable. ®

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