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Google+ API launches today

Online sharing gets a big shot in the arm from newly released APIs for Google+.

The Google+ team today announced the launch of its public data APIs. These APIs allow you to retrieve the public profile information and public posts of Google+ users in order to share content, profiles, and conversations across applications.

The news is significant. As part of the evolution of any modern Web property--especially those geared toward the social sharing of information, an API (application programming interface) is key to adoption.

"Google+ gives users full control over their information, supporting everything from intimate conversations with family to public showcases and debates," the company said in a statement. "This initial API release is focused on public data only--it lets you read information that people have shared publicly on Google+."

The APIs are standards based so developers don't have to learn a new programmatic style, and include a number of open-source libraries to avoid writing HTTP requests--which in the past have functioned as the interface into applications. The code libraries are available in a number of languages including Java, GWT, Python, Ruby, PHP, and .NET.

From the developer perspective, the APIs include a number of standard-oriented features to make it clean and easy to adopt the new APIs

  • API methods are RESTful HTTP requests which return JSON responses (this means that developers use standard URL requests, such as "GET" and the response is sent in standard JavaScript Object Notation)
  • Payload formats use standard syntax (e.g. PoCo for people info, ActivityStrea.ms for activities)
  • Security is provided by OAuth 2 for secure trusted access to user data

Days after launching Google+ in June, the company told CNET a developer API was in the cards. So far, the company's only efforts to open it up for others to build on is with its games platform, which launched last month.

As part of that release, Google noted it was only making its APIs available to select developers to build games on its platform. Today's release represents a broader effort on that front, with Google providing third-parties with a way to tap into the service with their own apps and services. The next logical step for the API is the user-authorized inclusion of private data into applications.

Google+ saw a meteoric rise of adoption when it launched in June 2011 but since then has remained relatively stagnant. The introduction of the APIs ushers in a whole new way of using the service and may well be the key to Google's attempt to bring the nuance and richness of real life into online sharing.

CNET's Josh Lowensohn contributed to this report.