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Free Google tools woo website developers

Aims to encourage apps from non-staffers

Valentine's Day is months away, but Google has displayed its ardour for developers by delivering to them the programming equivalent of a box of chocolates and a dozen red roses.

With several new and upgraded programming tools, Google continued it courtship of external developers, a group it considers key to the successful adoption of its online services.

The new tools make it easier for developers to access functions in Google's search engines, its Base repository of product listings and lightweight 'gadget' web applications. The company also introduced a search engine tuned to find publicly available source code.

Despite its size and might, Google believes it benefits greatly from allowing programmers that aren't on its staff to build web applications that use Google services and data. These can be hobbyists, professional programmers or corporate developers.

These external coders often come up with applications, plug-ins and websites that extend and enhance Google services in ways that staffers don't think of. For example, Google Maps has become the core of myriad 'mashups' from external developers.

Other large internet companies that woo external programmers with incentives and tools include Yahoo, Amazon.com and eBay, all for similar reasons to those behind Google's outreach efforts.

This week, Google upgraded its Ajax Search API (application programming interface), designed to simplify the process of adding a search box to a site and displaying results without taking users to a separate page. The API also allows the creation of applications that use Google search functions.

Meanwhile, Google also created a utility that automatically feeds inventory data to Google Base from stores hosted by Amazon.com, eBay and Yahoo on their respective e-commerce platforms.

This new Store Connector is designed to save online store developers from manually entering their product listings into Google Base. Products listed on Google Base can appear in Google.com search results, with a link to the store selling them.

Another overture toward external developers last week was the release of almost 1,300 'gadget' mini-applications for use in non-Google websites. Previously, they could be used only in Google sites. In addition to benefiting site publishers, the wider availability of these gadgets will provide more exposure for external developers who have created them.

Finally, Google unveiled a new search engine intended to simplify the often tedious and time-consuming task of finding source code online. Unlike Google.com, this one, at www.google.com/codesearch, crawls deeply into program files and returns snippets from lines of code with links to the file they belong to.

More information about Google's developer tools and services can be found here.


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