Google AppEngine: SMS, the Namespace and Other Quirks

by Devanshu Mehta

This weekend I started experimenting with the Google AppEngine.

Wondering what it is? There’s a pretty good answer from Google and one from Wikipedia, but the short answer is that it’s a hosting platform for web applications. Effectively, Google is the sysadmin for your application and provides the ability to scale processing, bandwidth and storage on their infrastructure. For a price.

Quirks

  1. SMS Verification: In order to create an application, you need to provide Google with a valid mobile phone number where you can receive an SMS. Google sends you an SMS with a code, you enter the verification code on the site, bob’s your uncle. The question is: why?

    There is no official answer, but here are a few guesses:
    * AppEngine is freemium service. Basic accounts are free. SMS verification is a complicated CAPTCHA.
    * SMS verification loosely ties one individual to one account. Google only allows one AppEngine account per mobile phone number.

    And no, Google Voice is not one of the options among carriers for verification. Because that would imply people actually use Google Voice.

    I kid. I actually use it. Sometimes.

    I don’t know if Google Voice actually works for verification. There are conflicting reports on the web.

  2. The Google Namespace: Google has a single unified namespace, shared among all Google services. If you have a gmail username, someone else can’t use the same string as an AppEngine app name. This may seem trivial. It’s not. Just like the .com’s, it seems there’s been a gold-rush for Google names.

    Among the many, many I tried, here are some absurd app names that were not available:
    * truetrue
    * truetruetrue
    * truetruetruetrue
    * truetruetruetruetrue
    * truetruetruetruetruetrue
    * truetruetruetruetruetruetrue was finally available. Not that I wanted it. But you get the idea.

    I’m not sure if some deranged squatters are actually holding on to these names on the off chance that they’re worth something, or Google’s availability-checker has a bug.

  3. Programming Languages: The AppEngine only supports Java and Python. I want to use Python (web2py, more specifically), so that’s fine by me.

I have an idea for a nifty app that will help at least one person. Me.

I’m not quite ready to say what it is. And I’m not sure AppEngine is the right home. But we’ll figure it out- the free 500 MB of storage and CPU/bandwidth to support around 5 million page views a month is tempting.

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