Google Alerts APIa - Authentication Issue Fix

in utopian-io •  6 months ago

image source


Bug Fixes

  • What was the issue(s)?

What is Google Alerts?

For those who are not familiar with Google Alerts - it is a simple service which lets you create kind of "Internet Watcher" for given search terms.

Some of the search term you can create a watcher for:

  • "STEEM OR SBD OR steemit"
  • "blockchain"
  • "Donald Trump"

more here:


If you think about it longer, it is a brilliant service which you can use widely. But it has a major drawback - Google does not provide a public API for it.

I really wanted to use the service in my private project, so I decided to create a NPM module ( google-alerts-api ) which lets you interact with the service via your javascript codebase.

A couple of people started to use it as well. And it was fine, until Google has changed the way we can authenticate pragmatically. It started to require CAPTCHA ( :/ ) in authenticate process. The package became useless because of inability to authenticate in order to manage client alerts.

Quiet a few users has noticed it as well ( see issue here ).

To make things even funnier, Google algorithms sometimes let you in w/o CAPTCHA, so there is no golden rule where the form with an image characters to re-type will appear.

  • What was the solution?

Well, I added support for CAPTCHA, so user ( while in an authentication process ) has to fill CAPTCHA. So, whenever you call api.sync ( and you are not authenticated yet ), you will be prompted with a message, requiring you to fill in CAPTCHA via command line:

A link ( ) includes an image with CAPTCHA. You need to display it in a web browser, and re-type in the command line.

Finally, authentication process completes, so you can use a package to create / modify or remove your alerts.

But wait... do I have to re-type CAPTCHA each time I want to authenticate? It makes a package useless...

That is why another way to authenticate has been introduced some time ago. So called cookies based authentiaction. You can generate cookies:

and then use it (cookies string ) in this way:

You can store your cookies somewhere, and reuse it later, when you want to authenticate. Your username / password pair is no longer needed. Cookies is the only thing required to interact with an API.

How I did implement this:

First of all, while receiving a HTTP response with a HTML body, we have to find out, whether there is a CAPTCHA form available. A getCaptchaImageByBody function does the job:

Then, we have to find image url ( using getCaptchaImageByBody ) and ask client to re-type CAPTCHA:

A askUser function manages whole command-line stuff, its implementation is available here:

Finally, we can re-send a form with CAPTCHA included. And we are done!

A has been also updated to give an API users brief summary, how does the thing work now:

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Thank you for your contributions. It's indeed a nice fix for the user and very nicely explained. Where does the cookie get stored now, in the code itself?

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Thank you for the review. According to the storing cookies. It is generated by a user and it is a simple string, so we can save it into a file, or store as an ENV variable in order to use it on our server side later on.


Thank you for your review, @codingdefined! Keep up the good work!

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