Internet giant Google, which is still wrangling with the European Union over alleged Google Shopping market abuses, has abruptly shut down a flight-search API that the company picked up via a $700m acquisition of ITA Software in 2011.
The shut-down of the API, called QPX Express, will force a number of well-established and start-up travel information companies to seek alternatives - or force them out of business altogether - leaving a clearer field for Google's own competing product, Google Flights.
The acquisition of ITA by Google had only been approved by a US federal judge on condition that the company retained third-party access to the API for at least five years. In 2014, the company launched a simplified version of QPX, called QPX Express, but this will be shut down in April 2018 due to what a Google spokesperson described as "low interest", according to the Bloomberg newswire.
QPX Express is also no longer taking new users. The decision was slipped-in to the QPX Express API FAQ earlier today.
Wow. Google is shutting down ITA's public-facing APIs. That's an entire ecosystem of airfare startups executed with the stroke of a pen.— Ted Benson (@edwardbenson) November 1, 2017
Services such as Kayak, which is owned by Priceline, and the UK's Skyscanner, which is owned by China's Ctrip.com International, use the QPX API to conduct flight searches, alongside other APIs. They make a commission on flight sales generated via the use of the API, while the QPX Express API takes a commission of $0.02 - reduced from $0.035 - for every query in excess of 50 per day.
Google's owner Alphabet, meanwhile, has been beefing up its own Google Flights service, increasingly shifting it from providing basic information and passing on potential buyers to Expedia and other travel sites, to conducting the entire transaction itself and thereby taking a larger commission.
ITA is software owned by Google that contains flight data. An API is how others can access it. Google is killing off competition.— Colin Wright (@ColinTheMathmo) November 1, 2017
The abrupt closure of a widely used API will almost certainly stimulate renewed criticism of Google's increasingly powerful status as one of the ‘gatekeepers' of information on the internet, with the power to make or break businesses and even industries.
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