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Google Programming Technology

Google Pulls Access To Unsupported But Popular Weather API 168

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the we-did-it-because-we-love-you dept.
New submitter drsmack1 writes with news of some bummed out programmers losing access to an undocumented Google API. From the article: "The curious popularity of the Google Weather API appears to be coming to a close. The search giant never officially supported the feature, but developers have used the unofficial feed available from the iGoogle homepage. With iGoogle now set for deprecation in November, developers are reporting that the once simple weather API is no longer returning data." Seems like the sort of thing you could replace with a tiny bit of XSLT.
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Google Pulls Access To Unsupported But Popular Weather API

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  • Any suggestion?

    Thanks in advance !

    • Re:Any alternative? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 03, 2012 @08:04PM (#41218211)

      Sure: http://www.wunderground.com/weather/api/

      • Another alternative: http://developer.yahoo.com/weather/ [yahoo.com]
        • by jmauro (32523)

          Be warned though. Since Yahoo's weather products have been taken over by the Weather Channel this API has had a number of errors like having dead internal links and missing data.

        • by bobbutts (927504)
          The rom I'm using on my Nexus 7 (Glazed Jelly Bean [xda-developers.com]) is using yahoo! by default.
      • Re:Any alternative? (Score:5, Informative)

        by FitForTheSun (2651243) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @08:53AM (#41222295)

        I can explain what happened.

        I work for Weather Central in Madison, Wisconsin. In December we were purchased by the famously rich Rothschilds of Europe and they brought in a charismatic new superstar CEO. Seven months later, they cashed out to the tune of +$15 million, selling to our historical nemesis and competitor, Weather Services International.

        WSI is owned by The Weather Channel Companies, which is an umbrella company for The Weather Channel (duh) as well as Weather Underground, which they recently bought. (TWCC is owned by NBC Universal, which is owned by Bain Capital and Blackstone Group. That means I now work for Mitt Romney.)

        This consolidation is complete. Over 90% of the worldwide weather services business is now owned by TWCC, which used that considerable power to negotiate a contract with Google. The contract stipulates that TWCC (and their sub-companies) will provide data to Google, and in turn Google would eliminate its weather API, because TWCC has its own weather APIs (more than one of them now, in fact). The API at my company is cleverly named DataCloud: http://datacloud.wxc.com/?vs=0.9 [wxc.com].

        This consolidation is definitely good for TWCC, which will never again have to worry about competing in the marketplace. The monopoly will last until a disruptive technology displaces it in a couple decades, if it's anything like other stale monopolies. Unfortunately, it is definitely bad for the other 7.01 billion people on the planet, who now only have one source for weather data.

    • by _Shad0w_ (127912)

      The Met Office (UK's erm, met office) has an API available, it's very UK-centric though.

    • by TyFoN (12980)

      yr.no [yr.no] delivers world wide free weather data in xml and grib format. Enjoy :)

    • METAR data from airports is one possibility. I use it to style a website so the background changes to match the weather, with a thermometer and windmeter showing the respective info, clouds in the background and so on. It requires a fair bit of regex work, but it's usable. Resolution of one hour.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 03, 2012 @08:00PM (#41218177)

    Why didn't I think of that!

  • Even though the API was admittedly unsupported it was a core part of iGoogle and was used by many people as part of embedded scripts. While Google has admirably given a nice long notice for terminating iGoogle, it would have been nice had Google given at least a wee bit of warning of its abrupt termination of the weather API. Even its termination was not clear since the returned error page was an old page dated 2009 that seemed to imply that the user had done something wrong. It wasn't until I saw others en

    • by Zapotek (1032314) <tasos...laskos@@@gmail...com> on Monday September 03, 2012 @08:16PM (#41218293) Homepage
      Going the extra mile and notifying the users would have undoubtedly made a good impression but this situation resembles someone grepping a website for QOTDs and then complaining that his regexp no longer works because the site's HTML code changed or the quotes were removed altogether. Bottom line is, tough luck. When something is not supported then it's not supported, how much clearer can you get?
    • by exomondo (1725132) on Monday September 03, 2012 @08:34PM (#41218427)

      Is it asking too much of a company whose motto is "Don't be evil" to have given a week or two of warning or at least to have spent a minute or two setting up a meaningful and informative error page? Come on Google, you can do better...

      And if it were a supported API it would have that, but it's pretty clearly not a supported API.

      • I think the question is, or should be, why isn't there a supported API?

        Given the plethora of weather apps, widgets, etc. that are highly popular on Android (and iOS, for that matter, but widgets.. Android), it seems to be like offering a weather API with cached results (similar to the location API) so that each and every app isn't requesting its own data from its own datasources, sucking up resources and running up data bills for some users would be a good thing.

        Hell - let some enterprising App developer ge

        • by exomondo (1725132)

          I think the question is, or should be, why isn't there a supported API?

          What are you on about? Here's a list of 5 weather APIs [programmableweb.com].

          • Sorry, I should have made it more clear in my post that I meant that Google should offer the API as a part of Android (similar to the location API).

            I know there's plenty of other weather APIs available, and most of the better weather apps do let you choose. But given the popularity of weather apps (full apps, widgets, notification services, etc.) I think it would make sense for an API to be available within Android itself. This can then poll and cache results so that apps X, Y and Z can all grab the exact

            • by exomondo (1725132)

              Sorry, I should have made it more clear in my post that I meant that Google should offer the API as a part of Android (similar to the location API).

              Well in terms of location there's no 2 ways about it, your location is your location...as for weather forecasts they vary based on the source of the information and the way it is interpreted.

              I know there's plenty of other weather APIs available, and most of the better weather apps do let you choose.

              And that's really the best way, let you choose your source.

              But given the popularity of weather apps (full apps, widgets, notification services, etc.) I think it would make sense for an API to be available within Android itself. This can then poll and cache results so that apps X, Y and Z can all grab the exact same information without actually submitting 3 separate queries (which sometimes results in app X saying it's cloudy while app Y says it's clear skies depending on when the online service last updated their data).

              So what happens to being able to choose your source? Caching that data would only have any benefit if you had a bunch of different weather apps showing the same data, which is pointless.

              • So what happens to being able to choose your source?

                Those currently offering would, hopefully, continue to offer it.
                Those currently not offering it would, hopefully, consider offering it.
                But if for any reason whatsoever the chosen data source disappears, there would still be the built-in API to fall back to.
                ( Of course if you're going to give the user a choice between 5 data sources anyway, any of the other 4 could be a fallback. )

                Caching that data would only have any benefit if you had a bunch of different

                • by exomondo (1725132)

                  But if for any reason whatsoever the chosen data source disappears, there would still be the built-in API to fall back to.

                  And would be the source for that API's data? Why not just go directly to the API of that datasource instead like you do now? And why maintain a source for a weather API when there are already so many weather APIs provided by the datasource maintainer out there? It makes no sense. Would you do the same for all external data sources or just weather?

                  Whether there is any sanity in having that many apps with weather info in the first place may be a point of contention - but it's there, might as well try to cater to it.

                  No, you might as well leave it the way it is because it works just fine and works the same as all other external data sources.

                  • And would be the source for that API's data?

                    Whatever Google would decide.

                    Why not just go directly to the API of that datasource instead like you do now?

                    Saves you having to poll the data yourself. One less permission if you're just going to show temperature, humidity, etc. like most of the weather apps.

                    And why maintain a source for a weather API when there are already so many weather APIs provided by the datasource maintainer out there?

                    I don't know. Why maintain a source for getting the current time as an

                    • by exomondo (1725132)

                      Whatever Google would decide.

                      Well that could be anything.

                      Saves you having to poll the data yourself.

                      How is it any different? You call the datasource provider API or you call the local API, no difference from the developer effort perspective, you still have to update your app data based on the result, whether that comes from the local API calling the external datasource or just calling the external datasource directly.

                      Why maintain a source for getting the current time as an API call in Android when you can tell app developers that they're on their own.

                      Because - unlike weather forecasts that differ between sources - the time is the time, if it differs between sources then it's incorrect, so comparing time to weat

    • my iGoogle page has been my default homepage for at least 8 years, now... sh*t.
    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday September 03, 2012 @10:02PM (#41219083)
      I've seen some ridiculous suggestions that Google has ignored it's motto, but this is the most ridiculous one I can remember at the moment.
    • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Monday September 03, 2012 @10:36PM (#41219309)

      that seemed to imply that the user had done something wrong

      You did do something wrong. You used an unsupported API.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by gl4ss (559668)

        that seemed to imply that the user had done something wrong

        You did do something wrong. You used an unsupported API.

        no.. the wrong thing was to use a google api in the first place. it's totally random how they shut things down or roll them up - unsupported or not, this particular api had a pretty good run.

        • by Threni (635302)

          > no.. the wrong thing was to use a google api in the first place

          No, the problem was it was unsupported.

          >. it's totally random how they shut things down or roll them up - unsupported or not, this particular api had a pretty good run.

          It's unsupported. You can't just complain about it after the fact.

    • by Chewbacon (797801)
      This kind of data got really expensive recently. I was working on a browser plugin for weather forecasting and the rug got pulled out from under me when all the providers started charging a hefty chunk of change for access to their feeds. I'm not sure where google gets their data, but I'm sure it's from one of these guys.
      • Use the government services. They are free and are where the pay services get their data from, e.g. NOAA or MET - every country has one and you as a tax payer, already pay for it.
    • Why? It was an undocumented API that people used, but they had never published it? This isn't a change in an external interface, but rather a change in an internal interface that people just felt they could access. They can't inform people of every page they change if they didn't document it for people to use in the first place.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 03, 2012 @08:08PM (#41218245)

    Reminds me of the punchline of the Steve Martin joke "How to become a millionaire and not pay taxes":

    First, make a million dollars. Then, tell the IRS you forgot.

  • by drolli (522659) on Monday September 03, 2012 @08:22PM (#41218349) Journal

    why would anybody use these?

    • by siddesu (698447) on Monday September 03, 2012 @10:11PM (#41219153)

      Because somebody could not be bothered to read the interface definitions, or they were unavailable, or too hard/cumbersome to work with at the time, etc. Do you always write your throwaway scripts to an official, certified specification, never taking a shortcut? Have you never been in a situation where a throwaway script becomes a perpetual part of a system?

      Besides, what is the guarantee that if you code to the exact specs, things will work any better, or that the other free service will be any more reliable or long-lived?

      • If it's a "throwaway" script, you have a point. But I don't expect to keep them viable for more than in the very short term (thus the qualifier "throwaway").

        If all the bitching is about "throwaway" scripts, then they're even more disconnected from reality than they seemed at first blush.

      • If I decided to write a throwaway script based on a non-official API, then I would not complaint too much about the API being deprecated and removed. If Google had pushed this as an officially-supported API, then stopped supporting it, then you could complain. Otherwise, it is just baseless.

      • by drolli (522659)

        Yes. i have coded against other things than documented apis. However when i did so i made sure i have a plan b and isolated these parts very strongly in the code (usually creating a layer of abstraction i want to see).

        I also only do so as a desperate last-resort measure. Not because i can get some service without thinking or paying. And i only do so on products which have a history of being workaround-friendly.

        so after all, in the last 10 years i guess it maybe happened three or four times i used something

  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Monday September 03, 2012 @08:26PM (#41218365)

    And then complaining when said API disappears? For the US at least NOAA offers a pretty nice REST/XML API that's free and even comes with icons you can link to if building a webpage or app.

    • by fm6 (162816) on Monday September 03, 2012 @09:21PM (#41218781) Homepage Journal

      Well, yeah, there are plenty of alternatives. Just now I went to my igoogle page to see if the weather widget was still working. It was — because I use the NOAA widget, not Google's own widget.

      But you know, my igoogle page is going away in about a year. I can certainly live without it (I don't really need to a weather report and the Wikipedia Picture of the Day every time I open a browser tab, and now my daily agenda is also on my phone) but it's part of a trend that I'm really getting tired of. They invent some clever new application, then they get bored with it and pull it. They publish an intriguing new API, then they get bored with it and shut it off. The acquire some interesting new company, get bored with it and shut it down. And so on, over and over. Once or twice is a minor nuisance, but they do it constantly.

      Even when they stick with an application for the long haul, they take forever to get it out of beta mode, they tend to skimp on the boring little details that make for mature software (I mean you, Postini! And you Android Emulator!), and they never get round to providing proper documentation or tech support.

      I've said it before: I love Google for their creativity and their striving to create lots of cool products. But I wish to fuck they'd grow up already.

      • by cawpin (875453)

        Well, yeah, there are plenty of alternatives. Just now I went to my igoogle page to see if the weather widget was still working. It was — because I use the NOAA widget, not Google's own widget.

        Google's widget is still working just fine for me.

      • Honest question: how much would it cost them to keep it running? Is this a case of "All these interns driving out across the US and reading thermometers and phoning them in is costing a boatload of money in terms of gas, and we never put ads in it so we're not making anything" or is it more "That server is running the weather service, but we could put a foosball table there..."
        • by fm6 (162816)

          I very much doubt that money is an issue. Google is absurdly profitable, gets more profitable year by year, and their ownership is structured so that they don't have to account for the way the spend their money.

          But if they maintain a product, somebody has to be responsible for it. If nobody wants to spend the time to keep the product alive then the product dies. And that happens a lot at google, because the only criterion for holding down a job there is being very smart and creative. You get kudos for inven

        • Honest answer: Your question is irrelevant. If they never, ever stated they would continue to provide a service, you should never, ever expect to be continually provided. Especially when they only reason for its existence is to support a product that has already been discontinued.
        • I think it's more along the lines of: Hey, remember the weather data feed we subscribed to so we could show the weather on iGoogle? I don't think we need to pay for that subscription anymore after we've shut dow iGoogle.

      • If its free is it a product?

        I do not know what growing up has to do with it?

        Google gives away a lot of stuff fro free. ok, so Richard Stall man might not call it free, but we do not pay for lots of Google stuff. But a lot of other corporations are attacking Google so It seems to me to pull back to basics is a reasonable respounce, BTW you can get the weather data from other sources.
      • by Nemyst (1383049)

        Oh they've grown up alright. In their early days, they tended to do a lot of nifty things and leave them up. It's only fairly recently that they started pruning systems, APIs and services. Why? Because they don't give them a return on their investment.

        I like Google, but I realize that they're in there for the money, just like every other corporation out there. If a service is only draining cash, it's not worth keeping up from a business standpoint. iGoogle's nice for its users, but it was isolated from the

        • by fm6 (162816)

          Why? Because they don't give them a return on their investment.

          As I understand it, few Google businesses make much money. All the ones that are profitable are the ones where they've managed to stick in those minimalistic context-sensitive ads they're famous for. Those are extremely profitable, and subsidize the rest of the company.

          Anything that resembles traditional services businesses is a disaster. Their spam-filtering business is almost nonfunctional. (I speak from personal experience.) Their cloud application initiative is pretty much stalled. Their code hosting se

          • IIRC the gadget markup for Google+ hangout apps is identical to the iGoogle gadgets markup. (Only includes other APIs)

            • by fm6 (162816)

              Huh. So they could fold iGoogle into Google+ i they wanted to. But iGoogle is just so 90s.

  • 2013 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 03, 2012 @08:33PM (#41218419)

    With iGoogle now set for deprecation in November

    That's November 2013.

  • Lies! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tweir (27510) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @12:24AM (#41219791)

    There is no such thing as "a tiny bit of XSLT".

  • "tiny bit of XSLT" that's the funniest short joke of today.

Mediocrity finds safety in standardization. -- Frederick Crane

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