A big plus

Google+ opens API to app developers

Elliot Bentley

Social network adds ability to send apps directly to phones, but keeps tight grip on full read/write access.

Google have expanded their social network’s API, adding considerable integration with third-party services.

The new API goes much further than the OpenID sign-in option introduced in 2008, allowing users to sign into iOS and Android apps with their Google account and provides developers access to Google+ circles.

One key addition is that signed-in users on desktop can send recommended Android apps to their phone without the fuss of entering credentials or going through the Google Play store. Apps can also post directly on behalf of users – albeit only with explicit permission for each post – and new “interactive” posts can link directly inside relevant apps.

The API supports most standard languages, including Java, .NET, Python, PHP, JavaScript, Ruby and Google’s own creation, Go, as well as Objective-C on iOS..

It’s the latest step in Google’s opening up of their social network, which though initially launching without an API, has since added hangout apps and social games. In contrast, Facebook and Twitter’s APIs allow full read or write access, and have offered web and mobile app sign-in for years.

The most glaring omission to the Google+ API is the ability to quietly post on behalf of users, although this is unlikely to change any time soon: last summer, Google+ VP Bradley Horowitz claimed that automated posts “don’t really work”.

Last month, it was reported that Google+ had a total of 343 million active users, compared to 693m on Facebook and 288m on Twitter. However, it has struggled to shake off a reputation for being a “ghost town”.

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