Google Sites API Opens SharePoint Escape Route

Users of Google Sites now have access to an API to move data in and out of the service.
In keeping with its commitment not to trap user data, Google on Thursday plans to introduce a new application programming interface (API) that will provide access to Google Sites, the company's service for creating and hosting collaborative content and Web sites.

Through the API, developers will be able to programmatically import and export Web pages and related data to and from Google Sites.

In a phone interview, Scott Johnston, senior product manager for Google Sites, explained that the new API is being introduced in response to a number of requests from developers and Google Sites users who want to move data into Google Sites from other programs that they're using now.

Such programs may well belong to Google's competitors. As a post on Google's enterprise blog explains, the API can be used to import files and content from applications like Microsoft SharePoint and Lotus Notes.

Google partner LTech has already build an application called SharePoint Move for Google Apps using the API to help liberate data, as Google might put it, from SharePoint.

Microsoft probably favors different terminology, like poaching customers.

In any event, Google has made a number of recent moves to build bridges to ease and encourage migration from competitors' products to its own. In June, for example, Google introduced Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook, which lets Outlook users to connect to Google Apps for e-mail, contacts, and calendar data.

Google's recent ad campaign to encourage businesses to consider "Going Google" -- migrating from other services to Google's cloud -- is predicated on the absence of barriers to data movement.

It's not clear however that Google's commitment to data freedom is absolute. Harvard Business School assistant professor Benjamin Edelman continues to question why Google provides APIs for automated data access for some of its services but not for its advertising platform. To get campaign data out of Google AdWords, users must export it as a CSV file rather than using an API for programmatic data movement.

The Google Sites API is being released through Google Labs and Google is also releasing code that makes use of the API, like the open-source Google Sites import/export tool.

The API allows developers to access, modify and delete Web pages and data, upload or download attached files, review a Site's revision history, and show recent user activity.

For IT administrators overseeing corporate Google Apps accounts, the API provides a way to push new content to any page in a company's domain, to do things like update policy documents or logos, for example.

Johnston acknowledges that Google has further work to do to make the Site API even more useful. He said that the company would be looking at ways to improve the fidelity of data exported into Google Sites and at ways to make Sites more programmable.

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