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When you talk to many developers today about Web services, you’ll get the glassy eyed stare of someone who has dealt with vaporware for far too long. The promise of Web services has indeed eluded developers, and the original promise of Web services still hasn’t arrived. However, in the mean time, a number of public Web services have arrived on the scene which offer a tantalizing glimpse of something better, something different. Public Web services are often driven by the need to interact with a profitable Web site faster and more efficiently.

A Little Bit About the Big Three

Three public Web services in use now have made a bid for the hearts and minds of developers. They have one thing in common: they allow programmatic access to a Web site that is already popular. In every case—Google, Amazon, and eBay—developers are looking for ways to interact with the Web site more effectively. That could mean getting information faster or something as esoteric as combining information from multiple sites to create a new result.

After working with all three Web services for a while, I can honestly tell you that the Web services really do help get information faster and let you format the data as you see fit. If you want just text and no graphics, you don’t have to display the graphics. Overall, I’ve found my efficiency has improved without losing any information at all. In fact, I couldn’t be happier with the applications that I’ve been building.

For example, when I go shopping on Amazon now, a click of a button instantly downloads information from Google about the target product. I can see the Amazon reviews, but I can also see articles written about the product. In short, my combined search engine tells me more than either Google or Amazon would alone, and the process is extremely efficient. (To see a public application that uses these two Web services together, check out Authorama. The author even tells you how he combined the two Web services.)

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John Mueller is the author Mining Amazon Web Services (Sybex, ISBN: 0782143075).