Getting Grandfathered into a Google API

Warning: This post contains extremely geeky content.

A few weeks ago Google removed a feature called "inlined" from its personalized homepage API. This was a setting a Google gadget developer like myself would use to create a gadget for the home page that was capable of interacting with the rest of the page the way my toggle-google gadget does, and more importantly it allowed those gadgets to grow and shrink as their content required (like the del.icio.us gadget). Full details of what Google changed and how are in this email thread.

Google dropped inlined support because its a bit of a security problem. With an inlined gadget the gadget code can basically scrape any info they want out of other gadgets (like your calendar or email) and steal your valuable Nigerian scam emails before you got to read them. I know those Nigerian scam emails are fake, but still, they are your scam emails and you don't want anyone stealing them...

Google did the right thing to stop supporting inlined gadgets, but they also did another cool thing. They grandfathered any existing gadgets that were already using inlined. So some of the ones I wrote like del.icio.us bookmarks and the Toggle Google gadgets still are able to use inlined. I think this is the first time I've been involved in a grandfathering and I can't help but wonder if that means I'm getting old.

In the end, it probably won't matter. While Google has given my gadgets "Grandfathered" status, they seem to get shut off every once in a while and show the error message "Sorry, this gadget uses the inlining feature, which is no longer supported."

I was really surprised, but when I realized the gadgets were breaking, I really wasn't bothered or even motivated to fix the problem. That's a big change from when I was picking apart the iGoogle DOM to change parts of the page layout and then dealing with all the subtle changes to the page that Google would make every few weeks. I was really into it back then.

But times have changed. I've got 3 kids, and my ecological footprint project has got me interested in things like public policy. Its not a small topic. So I'm not planning on putting any effort into those gadgets, so they'll likely get stale and stop working some day.

It was fun while it lasted though.