Google has been very busy lately with many new products recently. Many of them, such as Google Public DNS, Google Chrome OS, and real-time search have received the lion’s share of publicity. I’d like to talk about a little jewel sitting in Google Labs you may not heard of. It’s a shiny little jewel that could become a real game changer and not many people are talking about it yet: Google Fusion Tables.
Google Fusion Tables is a web application that allows you to import, manipulate, and generate reports from large data sets. It is designed to handle much more data than you can put into Google Spreadsheets or versions of Excel earlier than Excel 2007. Some time ago, I started fooling around with it and I managed to import a relatively large data set with nearly 150,000 records without any issues whatsoever. The interface also provides some nice ways to visualize the data.
In addition to providing some nifty visualizations, there are also many data tables that have been published for public use. For example, the 2010 Quality of Life Index:
So why do I think this could be a game changer? Yesterday, the Google Code Blog announced the Fusion Tables API. With the API it is no longer necessary to use the Fusion Tables web interface to upload, manipulate, and visualize data. Now it can be done programatically, and Fusion Tables can be used to store large data sets in the cloud. The data can be extracted using SQL, which is the gold standard for handling the data stored within databases.
Not long ago, Jesse Stay wrote about the building block web. The Fusion Tables API is a perfect example of a new set of blocks that will integrate very well (and easily) with the building block web. Persistent data storage is an essential component for the building block web, and that is just what Fusion Tables provides.
Of course, it doesn’t come without its limitations. According to the Google Fusion Tables API developer’s guide, the API can send a maximum of 5 requests per second to the Fusion Tables server. Hopefully Google will lift that constraint or increase it at some point. 5 requests per second won’t be enough for the enterprise applications that could potentially be built on top of Fusion Tables.
If you’re a PHP programmer, here’s some PHP code I’ve put together to help get you started: