Yahoo Oct. 28 launched Yahoo Open Strategy 1.0, the company’s bid to unify the disparate user networks within Yahoo and allow outside programmers to develop applications that augment the user experience.
YOS includes a universal profile, basically a control panel where users can access and customize apps; a portable address book, allowing users to move their contacts to other Web sites; the ability to find new friends; and the option to share updates, such as ratings on Yahoo Movies or Yahoo Buzz content.
YOS is the company’s push to make its Web properties more integrated and seamless for users at a time when users are increasingly integrating their Web services through singular home pages, such as iGoogle, or social networks such as Facebook and MySpace.
When Yahoo unveiled YOS last April, the company resisted the contention that it was essentially making Yahoo a social network for its hundreds of millions of users. But that is what it is, albeit at a greater scale than Facebook or MySpace. Note these comments from Jay Rossiter, senior vice president of Yahoo Open Strategy, about YOS:
“At a high level, we’re rolling out a social platform that will draw on the hundreds of millions of connections on Yahoo-everything from random encounters with someone who commented on the same photo as you, to deep connections you have with friends who know nearly everything about you. By using the social contacts you already have on Yahoo-through Mail, Messenger, Flickr, Finance, Fantasy Sports, etc.-we’ll make those social connections more active and useful.“
How is that not a social network? The feat, if it works and users remain loyal toYahoo, will be nothing short of magical. Taking a portal chock-full of applications that largely didn’t work with one another and “rewiring” them to interoperate is special.
So how did Yahoo do it? In short, lots of REST (Representational State Transfer) (as in APIs), a SQL-like query language, and OAuth. Here are the ingredients of YOS 1.0, according to Sam Pullara, vice president of the new Yahoo Application Platform.
Yahoo Social Platform, or YSP, is a suite of REST-based social APIs, including Profiles, Connections, Updates, Contacts and Status, for programmers. These services will let users write social applications on Yahoo or on their own Web site.
Yahoo Query Language, or YQL, is a new Web service API that lets programmers access other Web services using a SQL-like language. YQL is used to make data from Yahoo and from across the Internet universally accessible through one interface.
Yahoo said it will spend the rest of 2008 and part of 2009 integrating YSP and its components into Yahoo. Eventually, Yahoo expects apps like Yahoo Mail will let users filter their in-boxes to see e-mail just from social connections. Yahoo Mail, Messenger, the front page of Yahoo and My Yahoo will allow people to see what their connections have been doing across Yahoo and the Web.
Yahoo will need to take care here to keep from giving up too much information control. Remember Facebook’s Beacon advertising effort? That plan ripped user privacy and users ripped Facebook.
The plan, coming after Yahoo opened its SearchMonkey platform, seems even more daunting now than when Yahoo announced it six-plus months ago. Since that time Microsoft has backed off from its hostile takeover attempt and Yahoo’s stock price has taken a precipitous plummet.
No one knows whether YOS will save Yahoo; at the very least it offers a glimpse of how a large haven for Internet users might be brought more closely together.