It’s been a year since developers were underwhelmed by the first release of the Google Plus API. The search engine’s nascent social network has gained in popularity and even improved its developer tools, but it is still lacking the main feature many developers request–a writable Google Plus API.
There’s well-documented reason and speculation behind Google’s decision not to include an API that allows others to post to it. The company has taken advantage of being a latecomer to the social space. It is able to learn from the lessons of others, as well as the mistakes it has made previously.
Google launched its Buzz API, writable and all, along with the status message service. Gmail accounts were connected to Buzz, giving it the possibility of a fully integrated social platform. The similarity to Twitter meant that instead it became a place for syndicating tweets, often robbing them of the conversational context.
FriendFeed faced a similar issue, looking like a the social messaging equivalent of a second-run movie theatre, getting the blockbusters long after they lost their draw. To a lesser extent, that has been an issue at Facebook, with users confused by at-signs and hash tags. Indeed, this syndication problem is likely one motivation behind Twitter’s latest changes to its own API.
Everyone wanted Google Wave, but they weren’t sure why. The Google Wave API also created developer excitement, but it was short lived. Wave was a true platform, providing tremendous potential. But it fell on its face, perhaps for the same reason developers were excited. Wave was a platform before it had a popular service.
Google Plus has focused on the service. It’s courted new users, then attempted to keep them engaged on Plus. It eschewed the syndication approach to growth and doesn’t want to be a platform just for the sake of checking a box in a developer feature list that might still not lead it to being a successful service.
The real lesson in the latest sort-of Twitter competitor from Google could be from the tweety social network itself. Twitter has appeared to put great effort the last year toward creating a platform that suits its business goals. Along the way it has absolutely created some developer pains as it clamped down on the platform that once was credited for the company’s success. Developers were given guidance not to re-create the key Twitter client experience. Now they’ve been given stricter terms and more stringent rate limits.
During the same year, Google Plus had its own set of developers upset about what the company wouldn’t give them. But there’s a key difference between taking something away and never having it. Google may have seen the direction that Twitter headed and naturally considered their own service not just now but several years into the future.
It’s not that Google has sat still with its developers tools for Google Plus. It launched a Google Plus Hangouts API shortly after its flagship API. And at Google I/O the company added its first toe-dip into a writable API with the Google Plus History API. The latter allows developers to inject items into a Plus users’ stream privately. Then the user needs to go to Google Plus to confirm the activity.
That latest Google Plus API shows the approach the search giant is taking with its social network. It wants to own the experience, get it right and make its users happy. Unfortunately for developers, a year later there’s still not an API for everything you’d want to do with Plus.