Geo APIs Summer Learning Series


Google has one of the world’s most comprehensive databases of Places information, including over 50M business listings and points of interest worldwide. The Google Places API lets your applications tap into that database, to find the Places your app needs, so that users can indicate the Place they are at, or discover new Places nearby.

Following the introduction of the Places API at Google I/O last year, we worked with developers in a limited preview to understand what was needed to ensure the Places API is as powerful and easy to use as possible. In the “Connecting People with Places” session at this year’s I/O I was very happy to announce that having implemented the feedback we received during the preview, the API is now accessible to all:


The Places API is provided in two ways, a set of XML and JSON web services, and a set of corresponding classes in the Maps API v3.

The web services are ideal for mobile app developers, and can be queried from the developer’s own infrastructure, or directly from the app running on the smartphone. The Places API Search service focuses on location-based search, delivering up 20 Places in the vicinity of a user’s location. Search results can be filtered by Place name, or by one of over 90 categories, such as ‘restaurant’, ‘night_club’ or ‘spa’. The Places API Autocomplete service focuses on text based search, providing autocompletions of Places near the user as they type.

The Places API Report services also allows apps to submit new Places provided by users, which are instantly added to subsequent search results, and also delete them at a later date if required. Apps that allow users to identify the Place they are in at the time can also pass this “check-in” signal back to the Places API Check-in service which factors this real time popularity signal into the ranking of subsequent searches, so that the Places popular with users of the app are ranked higher in real time.

The Engineering Lead for the Places API, Marcelo Camelo, dove into how to get started with the Places API web services, and the structure of requests and responses in the “Location Based App Development using Google APIs” session:


For web based applications the Places API has also been integrated into the JavaScript Maps API v3. The PlacesService class provides access to Places API Search directly from the web based Maps applications, while the Autocomplete class enables a HTML text field to predict autocompletions of Places as the user types:


To use the Places API classes in your Maps API applications you simply need to request the new places library when you load the API into your web page. To use the web services, you must first create a new project in the Google APIs Console, and then enable the Places API on that project. You can then use the APIs Console key for that Project to access the Places API.

Initially your key will offer courtesy quota of 1,000 requests per day. Once you are ready to launch the next great location based app, simply “Enable billing” on the project. You will be prompted to provide credit card details, in order to verify your identity. Once you have done so, your quota will increase to 100,000 requests per day, but the API will remain free to use. Note that you may be charged if you use the same key for other APIs, which you can avoid by creating a separate project for accessing other APIs.

For more information on how to use the Places API, check out the documentation for the Search and Autocomplete web services and Maps API v3 places library. You can also discuss the API with other developers on the Google Maps API Web Services forum, and request additional features you would like to see the API offer, or report any problems you find, using the Places API section of the Google Maps API Issue Tracker.

Our launch at Google I/O this year was just the beginning of the Google Places API story. We are looking forward to bringing you many more features in the future to help you build more innovative and compelling location based applications. So do get started developing your apps, but keep an eye on this blog for more to come!


Google Coupons Joining the Witness Protection Program as Google Offers

You won’t have Google Coupons to kick around anymore. It appears that they are joining the witness protection program under a new name: Google Offers.

Google Coupons Become Google Offers

Google Coupons had been the Rodney Dangerfield of Google local products, always hidden, never talked about and for years, after an optimistic start in 2006, they languished.

Until Google removed the ability to easily search for coupons, it was obvious from my annual coupon survey that their y/y usage was declining and by early 2009 Google coupons seemed to be on life support.

They were hidden not just from my research efforts but from the eyes of consumers as well. Here is what I told an SMB poster in the support forum that was searching for his own coupon:

Coupon location is one of the best kept secrets of Google Maps. Even Maps Guide Jen has been known to have trouble locating them. The only entity totally capable of finding them after they have been posted is the GoogleBot. Occassionally they are spotted by humans but only after they have drilled into Maps quite deeply.

Over the past 16 months, the traditionally moribund coupon program has started seeing a slow and erratic rebirth, apparently speeding up over the past few months.

During the spring of 2009, Google actively started cleaning out old coupons from listings and requiring an ending date be applied to all coupons. In August 2009, Google allowed businesses to link directly to their coupons. Last November, Google created an option to show coupons in the mobile environment.

With the introduction of the paid Tags product in June, 2010, a business was able to highlight their coupon in association with their listing.  In July of this year I was actually contacted by a Google Coupon Support person via robo mail to re-up an existing coupon and in September, it became apparent that Google was syndicating coupons from CitySearch. And somewhere in the very recent past Google added a Coupon Guideline Policy that actually requires that the coupon offer something of value in an appropriate way; noting that they could be pulled down particularly if customers complained about fulfillment issues..

Since the nationwide rollout of Tags in June, the ability to surface a coupon on the front page of the Google search results has finally become a (paid) reality, offering coupons their first, real visibility. Of late it has been a tactic that even I have been suggesting to some customers that were considering the use of Tags.

This rebranding, occurring after the extensive Places Search rollout, indicates to me that Google Coupons Offers have finally clawed their way up in the hierarchy of Google Local priorities, have survived their stint in Siberia and are being prepped for the Big Leagues. It is also an obvious “answer” to the recently introduced Facebook Deals.

Exactly what their roll will be remains to seen but starting a new life as Google Offers, it is not beyond reason to think that once Google has enough good inventory, coupons will surface even more widely on both the desktop and mobile.

P.S. I hope that you will forgive the many mixed metaphors and cliches but somehow an article about the ever abused Coupons seemed to warrant digging out every underdog reference from the past 50 years.

Weekend eye candy: ixlrlxi’s vehicles

There’s something I’ve been meaning to show you—I pointed to this work in the introduction to our SketchUpdate newsletter a few months ago, but I’ve never mentioned it on this blog. A glaring omission, I realize.

ixlrlxi (I don’t even know his real name) is a Russian concept artist who likes to model retro-futuristic-looking vehicles in SketchUp and render them with V-Ray. They are, in a word, mouth-watering. Here’s a sample of what you’ll see when you do yourself a favor and visit this thread on

Scroll to the bottom of the thread for an amazing tutorial about ixlrlxi’s process.

Posted by Aidan Chopra, SketchUp Evangelist