Google Translate API shutting down.

I was browsing last night and I came across this link on Reddit and I was wondering why so many people seemed to be mad at Google. Well basically Google will be shutting down a number of their API’s and deprecating them. Most of the API’s on that list I’d never heard of and I’m not sure how often they are used by others, but the Translate API is used by a large number of people. In fact the first thing you see on the Translate API page now is :

Important: The Google Translate API has been officially deprecated as of May 26, 2011. Due to the substantial economic burden caused by extensive abuse, the number of requests you may make per day will be limited and the API will be shut off completely on December 1, 2011. For website translations, we encourage you to use the Google Translate Element.

And I can definitely see Google’s point in this, that service has to be one of their most used service API’s. But the Google Translate Element API they have taking it’s place is a webpage only API, its not built to work with mobile apps or with client/server software (At least not without some serious hacking.). And I can see the other side of this as well, people have come to rely on this API over the years in fact here’s a good article from one of them over at ZDNET.

What’s really bothering me about this is that Google has created a product that gets so much use it causes “substantial economic burden” but they’ve made no effort to monetize it, instead they are shutting it down. This doesn’t make sense from a business point of view or from the “Don’t be Evil” point of view Google used to quote so much. Why don’t they just limit the number of requests on the free API and then have a paid for API that has an unlimited number of requests? That way they could get people into their API but also make it a money maker for them when people need a more robust service. Sure they’ll make some people mad at them, but I’m sure most people would understand why this had to be done and turn that “economic burden” into a money maker.

But if they shut down this API without providing a viable alternative they’re going to get a number of people saying “Why should anyone ever use a Google API again?”. This could end up being a major PR fiasco with developers which could ultimately hurt Google’s bottom line in the long term. What would happen if people stopped using the Maps or YouTube API’s and Google suddenly had less ad revenue coming in? I doubt that this will cause that kind of a backlash, but I’ve been wrong before and if anything it will make developers look at Google’s competitors and see what they have to offer.

Update
It looks like Google listened and is now posted this on their shutdown announcement.

UPDATE June 3: In the days since we announced the deprecation of the Translate API, we’ve seen the passion and interest expressed by so many of you, through comments here (believe me, we read every one of them) and elsewhere. I’m happy to share that we’re working hard to address your concerns, and will be releasing an updated plan to offer a paid version of the Translate API. Please stay tuned; we’ll post a full update as soon as possible.

Mike GriffithGoogle Translate API shutting down.