Google just announced something that might have caused some panic among travel websites. The search company said it will be shutting off developer access to automated data from airfare search engines, a decision that could affect popular travel tools such as Expedia, Kayak, and many others.
Google Shuts Down QPX Express
Apps that aggregate troves of data to give users the best airfare prices will soon need to find another way to integrate travel deals. Google is closing its QPX Express API, code that enables third parties to pull flight-related information into their own apps or sites.
Google didn't bother making an official announcement, simply posting a notice on the FAQ page for developers. It said it would be shutting down the service by April 10, 2018, and it would also stop accepting new user registrations for the flight service. Hacker News says Google also sent out an email announcing the change to QPX Express API users, encouraging them to find an alternative soon.
How Shutting Down QPX Express Affects Travel Websites
It's unclear which platforms currently use Google's flight data service, but in the past, it has helped Kayak, Orbitz, in addition to a smattering of apps from airlines and travel startups. Keep in mind, however, that QPX Express, the lighter version of the original QPX, is the only one closing. The standard QPX will remain available. But without QPX Express, smaller travel apps have to find other ways lest they lose their essential function.
Google shut down QPX Express because of low usage numbers, according to a Google spokesperson.
"We decided to no longer support the QPX Express API given the low interest among our travel partners," said the spokesperson. "Instead, we'll focus on our other enterprise solutions for partners and users."
It's also possible Google is building its own travel and flight information service for regular consumers instead of developers, and the move is simply a way to push out competing apps and services. It's plausible, but potentially controversial, according to Wired, which describes the move as a precursor for what could be a bigger antitrust issue.
How This Affects You
By stopping other companies from getting flight data from its QPX Express service, those companies won't be able to offer their usual services to customers unless they are able to find an alternative source. In other words, users relying on a certain travel website, which relies on Google's QPX Express API in the first place, will no longer get pertinent information and services — unless the company finds a way to get it elsewhere.
Some say, however, that this was bound to happen, and that startups shouldn't build their whole business on a free API because it might not be free forever.
"This kind of things happened many times before. If you're entirely relying on an API for your startup, this is an inherent risk," said one Twitter user. "Is your start up relying on free data? Don't expect it to stay free. Why should it?" said another.