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4/17/2007
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Google Maps Taps Ajax To Syndicate Automated Feeds, Mashups

The Ajax Feed API lets a developer tie a syndication feed to a mashup with two lines of JavaScript, so they don't need to know the details of what XML format would accompany a designated feed.

Google is making it easier to distribute new Google Maps mashups via an automated syndication feed, such as RSS.

That may mean that a site such as "Earthquakes In The Last Week" may soon reach thousands of new viewers instead of being a novelty known by a few. Building mashups with maps is a hallmark activity of Web 2.0 developers. Now Google is making it possible to quickly disseminate fresh information collected in such maps.

Earthquakes In The Last Week lets a user respond if they felt an earthquake any where in the world, as well as pinpoint a quake's epicenter and magnitude on a map based on Google Maps. San Francisco fans of the mashup might want to receive a notice whenever the site is updated with information on any earthquake in California. Sending out that information via Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, a public format for conveying information to subscribers, becomes a lot easier to implement with Google Ajax Feed API, Bret Taylor, group manager for developer products, said in an interview.

Ajax Feed API can tie a syndication feed to a mashup like Earthquakes "with two lines of JavaScript." Previously, a developer needed to know the details of what XML format would accompany a designated feed, such as Atom 1.0; RSS 0.94, 1.0, 2.0; or one of the five other variations of the feeds, as well as server proxy details. With the Ajax Feed API, developers have a single point of reference that lets them tap into a feed they want to use with their mashup. Mashups have become popular with those building what's known as Web 2.0 applications, or Web services based on combinations of content assembled by JavaScript and tailored to the end user. JavaScript is the active ingredient in Ajax, which is supported by several free toolkits from Google, Zimbra, and Sabre Holdings. The RSS and Atom service feeds both automatically let subscribers know when something changes in a subject area they have designated on a Web site as of interest to them.

The Google Ajax Feed API will offer one point of intersection between a developer's JavaScript mashup, which might be a combination of a Google map of a city and information on apartments in the same city. Apartment hunters could subscribe to a mashup and receive a notice when new apartments come on the market in a neighborhood in which they'e interested.

There are already at least 908 mashups using Google Maps, but many more are likely to be spawned and distributed via the Ajax Feed API, said Taylor. The ability of the API to link the public feeds to mashups is not limited to Google Maps.

Taylor announced the new API is available from Google during a talk Wednesday morning at O'Reilly Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. The talk had the snappy title: "The Web 2.0 is about all this content that lives in the cloud [on Internet servers], and mash ups are built to present it in new combinations." For more information on Google's APIs and developer tools, see code.google.com.

Yahoo, Microsoft, and other Web services providers are also trying to make it easier to combine their sites into user-generated mashups.

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