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Google Web Elements and Google's Iceberg Strategy (Google I/O)

At Google I/O this morning, DeWitt Clinton announed Google Web Elements, a new simple interface layer to Google Ajax APIs. The goal is to make bringing Google features to other sites as easy as cut and paste. And indeed, the cut and paste functionality is impressive: Add news, custom search, conversations, maps and more to your site with only a few clicks. If the earlier HTML 5 announcements were for developers, these announcements are for everyone else. Any blogger can easily incorporate Google services.

No need to show this via screen shots. I can easily embed live widgets.

Here’s a News widget, searching for news on Google I/O:
There are two standard sizes, the one shown to the right (350×250), and one in “leaderboard” size (728×90). It would be nice to see user-configurable sizes. Though you can edit the provided HTML, Google does not do automatic size detection.

You can also embed Google docs, spreadsheets, and presentations. (Of course, you can do the same with slideshare and scribd – embedding is the new black.)

The search widget is shown below. It automatically knows to search the site it’s placed on. No configuration needed. If you’re an Adsense for search customer, you can include advertising. The widget below is live. Type in Google I/O to search radar.oreilly.com for posts relating to Google I/O.

Loading

google.load(‘search’, ’1′);
google.setOnLoadCallback(function(){
var cse = new google.search.CustomSearchControl();
cse.enableAds(’4136420132070439′);
cse.draw(‘cse’);
}, true);

The search widget has been available before, but it’s got some new features, as shown in a before-and-after example in the image below. On the left is the previous incarnation. On the right, the new version uses AJAX tabs for improved performance, as well as featuring new kinds of ad elements. And of course, search results can be styled to your site with CSS.

macworld.png

Here’s a “conversation element” – you can comment right here on the page rather than in the normal comments. And as a special bonus, I’m told that if you comment in another language, Google’s automatic machine translation comes into play.

Elements like these embedded on other pages around the web are the underwater portion of what you might call Google’s iceberg strategy: a great deal of their usage is not on their own site, and so not measured by Comscore and others who measure search market share. In his keynote, Vic Gundotra mentioned that Google is now supporting more than 4 BILLION API calls daily across more than 60 different APIs.

A backchannel conversation with one attendee suggests that search API traffic alone might well be larger than the next biggest search destination on the web. Another tidbit from the backchannel: the aforementioned Google language translation API is a sleeper hit, used worldwide for translation of user generated content.

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  • http://friendfeed.com/webmaven Michael R. Bernstein

    The 4 billion API calls is a very impressive number, but I’d like to some more context. For example, I’d be very interested in a graph that compared Google’s API call volume with their search volume over time.

  • Dale Schumacher

    Minor correction: The “standard” size News widget is Medium rectangle (300×250), not (350×250).

  • http://paulmwatson.com Paul M. Watson

    Web Elements are a nice repackaging of Google Gadgets (widgets.) Useful but hardly ground breaking. Lets hear more about the things “that matter” from Google I/O and beyond.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com/ Tim O'Reilly

    Paul -

    The real news here isn’t the simplification and repackaging (and addition of new widgets) but the 4 billion calls number.

    I think that’s actually big news. I should have led with it in more than the title reference and closer about “iceberg strategy.”

    The point of the post is that google’s API strategy is phenomenally successful. Elements is a key part of that strategy.

    They didn’t say what percentage of the API usage was search, but let’s imagine for a moment that it’s only 1/3. That’s still 1.3 billion – quite a bit bigger than Live Search, and heading in the direction of Yahoo! scale search volume, all hidden from comscore size measurements.

    There’s a deeper trend here too. APIs are breaking down the old model of the “web site.” The net is becoming a fabric.

    Consider twitter, how they eschewed traffic to twitter.com in supporting API traffic from third party applications. (Contrast with facebook, which makes you view a facebook page to make sure you want to leave the site to follow an external link!)

    Bit by bit the web is moving from being a collection of sites to being a collection of programmable services, the Internet Operating System I’ve been talking about for the past ten years.

  • http://times.jayliew.com Jay Liew

    I think it’s amazing how Google I/O really rivals Apple’s WWDC – in terms of really wooing developers, and doing it not just right but sexy!