Doodle launches API for group events service

Doodle is a free web app which helps you find suitable dates for group events, like an appointment, a conference call etc. It’s been around for a while as a hacker project, but after growing has now turned into a real startup.

The proposition has always been simple: create a poll for a suitable meeting time and let people fill in the blanks about when they are available. It’s a an idea which works very well, and is easily messed up. London-based ikordo closed through lack of funding, a complex interface and the inability to convert its largely corporate target market to the idea. By contrast Doodle has grown virally amongst geeks.

However, the London and Zurich-based Doodle, has just gone live with an Outlook plugin which allows Outlook users to automatically fill in Doodle polls and to book tentative and final slots in their calendar. In adddition, the generic MyDoodle ICS Calendar feed will connect Doodle to all other major calendars like Google Calendar, Sunbird, or Mac’s iCal and keep users updated on the state of their Doodle polls.

Doodle’s competitors include Tungle and Timebridge.

But guess what?

Tungle also comes as an Outlook plugin that automatically loads all of your contacts and calendar events (either from Outlook itself or other calendar apps like Google Calendar). You can choose to share your schedule with others who also have the plugin installed, and you can invite others to a meeting whether or not they use Outlook. Tungle raised $1.5m from JLA Ventures and Des Jardins Venture Capital in May 2007. TimeBridge, originally started out as a deeply integrated Outlook plug-in but re-launched with a full web only interface that integrates with your Google and Outlook calendars, and others. Jiffle is another competitor, also with Outlook sharing.

Both are larger and have more funding than Doodle, however, they currently claims a healthy and growing 2.5 million unique users with 80,000 users in the UK.

So perhaps Doodle will rely on other aspects to set it apart?

It’s unveiling a branded service to enable organisations to run their own private Doodle meeting scheduler. And a version to create a new poll via email rather than the Web using an email bot via init[@]

More significantly they are also opening up their RESTful Doodle API to enable developers to create new apps on their platform to improve scheduling of meetings, conference calls and social events. Developers could create email-based interfaces and Windows-based desktop widgets, or even integrate Doodle into mobile platforms, like Blackberry, and web portals. The Doodle API is RESTful and supports the OAuth, the promising protocol to allow secure authorization of web services. And they’re offering a week in Zurich to the developer with the best Doodle-based application.

Personally I like Doodle. I’ve been using it since it was created and it basically just works, so I’d recommend anyone giving it a try.