by Brandon Rhodes • Home

Changed rules for Picasa tag searches

Date: 15 June 2010
Tags:computing, web notes

Well, drat.

Several images disappeared from the Our Fresh World green-building web site because Google changed their Picasa API recently — and I must not be subscribed to the proper mailing list or blog to have been warned ahead of time. Where are incompatible Google API tweaks announced?

The site owner and his photographer use Picasa web albums to upload, edit, and maintain their image collection. They simply give special tags to their favorite photos, and my application code then knows that it is supposed to display those photos on the web site. I almost used Flickr for this application, both because I am an avid Flickr user myself and because I consider its web interface more usable. But, perhaps predictably, Picasa had the much stronger search API — whereas you can either ask Flickr for the photos in a particular set, or ask for all of someone's photos that share a particular tag, Picasa lets you can combine the two queries and ask for only the photos that are in a particular set and that also share a specific tag. And since search is what attaches pictures to this web site, Picasa was my choice.

All was going well, with each page getting populated by searches like:

Then I received an email from the site owner, complaining that many of the photographs had disappeared! After seeing some complaints in the Picasa forums about recent versions of the user interface treating certain “special characters” in tags as spaces instead, I suddenly wondered whether the hyphen in several of our tags (like the “solar-power” tag in the URL above) was the cause of our trouble. I adjusted my code so that this search became:…?kind=photo&tag=solar+power

And, voilà, the images returned and were again visible! Does anyone know what forum or blog I should have been following to be informed of this critical change by Google? It is dismaying to have a site break in front of a customer when the very reason that I chose a Google product was because of their powerful API for integrating my application.

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