Google appears to have secretly discontinued the free Google SOAP API Search key. The existing API keys still do work, but they are no longer giving out SOAP keys to anyone who applies. There hasn't been any mention about this at the Google API blog, they have however pushed some new products to possibly replace it. This key has been used for years as the gateway key used by developers, webmasters and SEO's to track Google rankings, accesss Google search data, and a huge host of services Google has offered in conjuction with this API. So why has it been discontinued? It seems to be a huge shame for any user that in the future wants to access Google's search services. But then again, Google might have something better planned in the future. The SOAP API key has been around for at least 6-7 years (don't quote me on that). So it's hard to speculate why exactly Google has discounted this service.
After pointing a client to Google, they alerted me over the weekend to the fact that you can no longer access the page that gives out new Google API keys. They appear to have taken down the page. Following up on Digitalpoint thread was confirmation that other webmasters were having the same trouble.
According to the Google page:
As of December 5, 2006, we are no longer actively supporting the SOAP Search API. We encourage you to use the AJAX Search API instead.
So what does Google want to give us now? They are referring all people to their AJAX Search API. After careful review of the product, I felt like I lost my SEO thunder or some bully kid had stolen my bunny if I was a kid. I assume the logic must be, if it's AJAX it must be cool. Kidding aside, the AJAX is a nice service that lets users place an AJAX search box on their site. Its useful, but the API key it provides doesn't do anything for any of the SEO tools out there that require a Google API key. I tested it on some Digitalpoint tools just for confirmation. Feel free to try it yourself. I think some SEO developers need to hop on developing some slick SEO AJAX tools to start filling the void.
If anyone has more information on this or details from Google, please post in the comments.
There is continued discussion on Digitalpoint - How to Get A Google API
Update: Keys are still being given out, but the page to confirm has been taken down by Google and they have stated they are no longer actively supporting the SOAP API. Visit here to get a new key.