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March 5, 2008

Google Releases an API for Contacts

Google wants to make everyone happy today. After releasing a calendar sync tool, Google makes it possible to sync other valuable data: your contacts. The new Contacts Data API "allows client applications to view and update Contacts content in the form of Google Data API feeds. Your client application can request a list of a user's contacts, edit or delete content in an existing contact, and query the content in an existing contact."

What's interesting is that the contacts are tied to a Google Account, not necessarily to a Gmail account, so Google could release a separate address book for those who don't use Gmail.

Hopefully, social applications will use this API instead of asking for your Gmail credentials and we'll see synchronization utilities for mobile devices, Outlook etc. "The Google Contacts Data API allows you to own your own contact data. We expect the API to be useful for a big range of applications," notes Google's Sebastian Kanthak.


The problem is that your Google contacts aren't always your contacts: they're mostly a bunch of people automatically added by Gmail because you replied to their messages. And this is going to be a problem difficult to solve unless Gmail changes the way contacts are created.

25 comments:

  1. Now only if they'd get a sync client out for OS X's address book... and an iCal one while they're at it.

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  2. You can sync (one way) from Google Calendar to iCal using an XML link. I can't remember the details but it has worked for me.

    On the Address book, I think mail vendors started auto-adding people you send messages to to your address book in conjunction with their spam filters which would often make exceptions for address book members. Google doesn't do this so, it's always puzzled me why they do the auto-add. At the same time you can't just click on an e-mail address embedded in a message you received in order to add them, which seems like a very natural thing to be able to do.

    Google's design philosophy often favors the esoteric over the obvious.

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  3. Finally a Contact API. I can't wait for the Outlook sync programs to start flowing in.

    As for the "Gmail adds everyone" problem, I think they should form two extra contact groups similar to the default [Most Contacted] and [All Contacts]. Call them [Automatic Entries] and [Approved Contacts].

    Anything in the "Approved Contacts" list would be those that you imported or whos entry you filled out manually.

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  4. I personally don't use any web client (I prefere to leave the things on the cloud ^^), but what concerns me is the issue of Gmail acting like: "Hey buddy, you recieved an email from jknorimichi@nippon.org! Don't worry, i've added it to your contact list, even if you don't have the slightest idea about the owner of that address..."
    I want to beleave that with this API they're also thinking about a solution for this other issue :)

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  5. Works great. I have tried many such programs, both freeware (OggSync, Calgoo) and commercial (CompanionLink) and they worked so-so, apparently pretty good but when something untypical happened their reliability was zero. I also use a HTC Tornado smartphone and sometimes syncing via BlueTooth witha new database record was synonymous to deletion all old calendar events, esp. if you use a non-English version of Outlook (at least one program above considers it database conflict).

    The Google proggie works OK.

    And I am waiting for something similar for my Outlook address book.

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  6. I really hope Google does release a full fledged contact management system. I think they could do an excellent job of it. I'd be happy if they just added a birthday field to the current contacts list in GMail, though. It shouldn't be that difficult to get my contacts birthdays to show up on my Google Calendar.

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  7. @peregrino

    Thats not quite how it ("the problem") works. If you receive a mail from jknorimichi@nippon.org it will not get added to your contacts, however once you reply to that mail or just send a mail to jknorimichi@nippon.org THEN it gets added to your contacts. They make the assumption that since you are continuing or starting the communication that you know who this person is.

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  8. What do you think this will mean for Goosyn contact syncronization?

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  9. Can you tell whether there is a sync program that can sync between Gmail contacts and SyncML server?

    If so, you may sync contact info across computing platforms.

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  10. The API was released yesterday, so you shouldn't expect to see applications that use it so soon.

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  11. @Ryan
    Yep, you're right, my mistake '^^. But take the example of a simple mail sent to a couple dozen differnt acocunts, you don't necesary know all the people in that list... If you just use the "Reply to All" button to comment something about that mail, you end up with a bunch of unknown people in your contact list :S

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  12. @peregrino
    Oh yeah, I am totally in line with the 'feature' being poorly thought out - no arguments on that one :-)

    For me its a pain because I sell stuff on craigslist all the time and once I put an item up I have to respond to fifty morons who string me along only to find out they want to trade their guitar for my car :-| Then they are all cluttering up my contacts.

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  13. http://mail.google.com/mail/contacts/ui/ContactManager?js=RAW

    Don't forget that Google is already working on a Google Contact Manager: http://mail.google.com/mail/contacts/ui/ContactManager?js=RAW !!!!

    What I would love to see is a way to make relations between a Google Contact with a Google Document, with a Google Event all connected in something like projects.

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  14. As someone else pointed out, the "add sender's address to contacts" would be less of a problem if the Big G would just tag those contacts...

    Someone else asked about a sync program that can sync between Gmail contacts and SyncML server.

    Look into ScheduleWorld.

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  15. I think it's about time . I don't know when it's ready to be live, but it's something that missing long long time ago...

    Good luck

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  16. I'm tired of looking a solution to sync Google Contacts using SyncML. I've tryed:
    - ScheduleWorld: and it doestn work due to a new google protocol version.
    - Goosync: It's great but you have to pay if you want to sync contacts.
    - Funambol: Just supports Mail (Not Contacts or Cal).
    - Emoze: It's supposed to do it but couldnt find the way. It asks if you want to sync contacts but does nothing. Just works with Mail (Not Contacts or Cal).

    Any Ideas?

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  17. Has anyone figured out a way to sync:
    - Mac Address Book to Google contacts on Mac OSX
    - Google Contacts to MS Outlook on Windows

    I use Windows at work and cannot access Gmail (blocked by my Fortune 500 employer). There must be a way.....

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  18. @Kunal:
    The Address Book application from Mac OS X 10.5.3 lets you sync Gmail contacts.

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  19. I had a full comment but then this blogger.com threw everything away!

    Tried kiGoo limited success.

    oggSync 4 beta might work?

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  20. I'm also looking for a Contacts sync.
    Tried kiGoo from getkiGoo.com - July2008 version. Free. Sync only a few important fields from Contacts. Keeps a separate folder in OL for contacts and calander.

    Have not tried the oggSync 4 beta - seems to be making progress.

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  21. I've actually set up a google account that I don't use email. I only use the contact list and the calendar to sync up with my blackberry. This avoids extra contacts from the people you email.

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  22. I wonder if Google will create an app that will allow you to sync your contacts and Calendar. I keep a majority of my information on Google and I'm in the process of moving most of my Word, Powerpoint and Excel documents to Google Apps. That way I will not be limited by the OS or computer that I am using. I will be able to create, edit or share documents with anyone that has an email address. I believe that you can disable the feature that automatically creates contacts from people that you email. This would resolve that issue.

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  23. i want to add google addressbook api to my website, can any one people help me my email is ajeyreddy@yahoo.com

    thanking you
    ajey reddy

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  24. Sync All Contacts: LinkedIn, Facebook, Outlook, CRM and iPhone to Google Contacts (including the Profile Photo) http://bit.ly/bnfYCT

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