Google Targets Developers With Code Search Tool

Internet search giant Google delivered this week a new online search tool that combs publicly available software source code and connected documentation online.

Always looking to extend its forte — ferreting pertinent search results from billions of Web sites, pages and documents on the Internet — Google said the new beta service, Google Code Search, will help software developers quickly find source code using more precise “regular expressions,” and will scour the Internet for code based on programming language, license or file name.

“The inspiration for Code Search came from a tool we built to quickly search the internal Google code base,” Google Engineering’s Russ Cox wrote on his blog. “This internal search service was used so much that it became clear we should build something for other programmers to use as well.”

Created for Coders

Code Search makes publicly hosted software archives, concurrent version systems (CVS) and subversion repositories searchable in a single place.

Search results can be accessed via the Code Search site, or via Gdata feed, which Google hopes will encourage developers to create plug-ins for different software editors and development environments.

Google is entering the code search space behind others such as Krugle. Its latest offering, however, adds to a number of other Google tools and services for developers, including the free Project Hosting service for open source projects introduced this summer.

Developers have reacted with both excitement and hesitation to the new search tool, citing the potential for misuse, particularly by spammers harvesting e-mail addresses. They have also questioned the validity of search results, which may not necessarily be updated or represent actual, working code.

Code Search does support POSIX extended regular expression syntax, including back references, collating elements and classes, however, and may be close to what developers were expecting and had asked to see from Google, after the search giant’s Project Hosting service disappointed some. Many had anticipated a searchable, open source code base in Project Hosting, but the service is actually aimed more at improved bug tracking, said Google Engineering Manager Greg Stein.

Dedicated to Developers

Code Search represents a commitment by Google to serve developers, in addition to consumer and business users, said Basex CEO and Chief Analyst Jonathan Spira.

“Others have benefited [from Google’s innovation], but in general, programmers and coders really haven’t,” he said. “Now, Google is putting the power of its technology to work for them.”

Code Search should help make software developers more productive, which in the end should result in better software tools and features for users, Spira told TechNewsWorld.

Google Effect

The service should be helpful to software developers, primarily Apache Web server developers, CollabNet Chief Technology Officer Brian Behlendorf agreed.

“I think it’s a nice thing, just like Krugle, Koders and others have done before,” he said, adding that support for subversion repositories was expected.

However, Behlendorf outlined some concerns, such as the potential strain of Google’s search technology on software projects.

“I hope that in building their index, they’re not robot-scanning the Web-based archives of many of the large projects, as that could create an unreasonable burden on the infrastructure of so many of them,” Behlendorf told TechNewsWorld.

Behlendorf said he hoped and presumed that Google would take advantage of a Subversion 1.4.0 command, “svnsync,” that can create a local mirror of a remote code repository, increasing efficiency and avoiding server or network slowdowns.

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