Yahoo to radically open its platforms, boost social networking strategy

Strategy could be a threat to MySpace, Facebook

Yahoo Inc. is swinging the doors of its Web platforms wide open to let outside developers create applications across its network of sites and is radically stitching together its online services under the social profile concept.

The idea is to let the hundreds of millions of people who use its Web mail, instant messaging, calendar, photo management and other online services replicate the social experience that social networks like MySpace and Facebook have made so popular.

This means that Yahoo users will have profiles under which their Yahoo services will fall. They will be able to customize the profiles by adding applications. The profile is also intended to simplify the map of connections among Yahoo users so that they can find one another and interact more easily and efficiently.

If Yahoo is able to bring this vision to reality, it could pose a major threat to the appeal of MySpace, Facebook and other social networks, and give Yahoo the boost it has been seeking for years among Web users.

"It is rewiring Yahoo from the inside out, across all of our properties, to fundamentally open up those Web services and provide a consistent development model, a consistent deployment and consumer experience as well," said Ari Balogh, Yahoo's chief technology officer, during a keynote speech today at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco.

While Yahoo has had open application programming interfaces for a variety of its services for years, Balogh said this initiative will take those efforts to greater lengths. It will also include streamlining the development process to make it uniform for developers across Yahoo platforms, he said. "It includes opening it up in a way we have never done before. It's about making the entire Yahoo experience more social," Balogh said.

The process is ongoing, as Yahoo today announced the opening in beta of its Search Monkey development environment, which lets external developers customize Yahoo search results to make them, in theory, more relevant and richer with information. Yahoo had announced its intention to do this in February.

Yahoo expects to hit more significant milestones in its opening-up process throughout the year, Balogh said.

With this vision, Yahoo seems to be finally tossing out the window its failed and misguided attempts to compete against MySpace and Facebook by creating a straight-ahead social networking site, like its disappointing Yahoo 360.

Instead, Yahoo will attempt to harness its worldwide users, who have some 10 billion latent social relationships already established among themselves via their Yahoo Messenger contact lists, Yahoo Mail address books and the like.

By unifying all Yahoo user profiles, the company will create its own consistent social graph for the benefit of consumers and developers, Balogh said. From the social graph, Yahoo will be able to establish relevant connections among users, as well as event streams of what people are doing online, which are popular on Facebook and via FriendFeed.

"We don't think of social as a destination," Balogh said. "We think of social as a dimension. It infuses every element of the consumer's experience on the Web."

Yahoo will also make sure that people are in control of the applications they opt to add, and thus share data with, as well as making sure that their data is kept safe.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

It’s time to break the ChatGPT habit
Shop Tech Products at Amazon