Yahoo’s new “open strategy” platform, rich in social features, officially launched Tuesday. The individual pieces work together to let developers bring user data to their services or even bring their services directly to Yahoo users.
The Yahoo Social Platform (YSP) uses OAuth and REST to let developers access user profiles, connections, updates, contacts, and status. The data can then be used in mashups, or to create new ways for users to access their own information.
While YSP is available now, the possibly most exciting part has yet to launch. The Yahoo Application Platform (YAP) will allow developers to run their creations right on Yahoo pages. This is similar to Facebook’s application, right down to Yahoo creating its own markup and query language. However, Yahoo plans to support OpenSocial, and its use of OAuth shows it is committed to the open strategy label.
It may be easy for some to write off Yahoo, both in general and with the release of its new platform. With its mix of openness and large number of users (many of whom have never seen Facebook), it’s naive in either case to think Yahoo isn’t a major player in the future of the web. And it’s letting developers come along for the ride.
Yahoo announced more details around its new application platform at a press event in San Francisco on Friday.
The new platform, dubbed Yahoo Open Strategy (YOS), represents an attempt to unify all of the company’s services using the same technology. The end result is a massive overhaul of its user-facing services, many of which are modeled after the most popular features of social networks like Facebook and MySpace.
New system-wide features include Twitter-like status updates, widgets and plenty of of APIs third-party developers can use to access Yahoo social sharing services.
In other words, think of what Yahoo would look like if you added all of Facebook’s famous features. Still, Yahoo spokesmen were eager to brush off any similarities to Facebook. In essence, the YOS strategy is what you’d get if Yahoo took all of its killer features — search, mail, calendar, photo sharing and a customizable start page — and added Facebook’s killer features — status updates, rich profiles, contact management, the Facebook Connect login apparatus and various APIs.
In many ways, its as if Yahoo is catching up with Facebook. In doing so, it might give Facebook, a company mired in aimlessness, incentive to carve out some clear direction. Considering the amount of development resources Yahoo has thrown behind Flickr, Yahoo messenger, Yahoo mail, web search and the rest of its empire, if the company can build a social network that’s actually successful, it will be in a position to truly compete, giving Facebook and MySpace a run for their money.
Yahoo is touting YOS’ infrastructure benefits as a more robust and scalable computing cloud than what its competitors have to offer. There are a staggering number of features packaged with the new platform. Below is the boiled-down feature list:
What Does it Do?
Unified Yahoo accounts, this time with light registration. For example, you can register with a Hotmail email address.
Yahoo Accounts, Google Accounts, Windows Live ID
A rich administrative application to carefully allow or disallow application access to your profile data. You’ll be able to individually administer any particular data point an app is requesting
OAuth (in fact, it uses OAuth), Facebook’s application installation process
It’s a pretty straightforward address book, but unified over all Yahoo properties. No need to enter profile information twice.
Plaxo, Google Contacts, Windows Live ID
Suggests contacts based on who you email or contact most.
Gmail & Google Talk contact sorting, Facebook Recommendations
Status updates via an API. For example, you could
see messages like “Scott just uploaded a Flickr photo.”
Facebook, Facebook BUZZ, Twitter, FriendFeed
Gadgets, widgets, and other web applications integrated into Yahoo properties — including OpenSocial apps.
Facebook applications, iGoogle widgets, Yahoo front page feeds
Data (YQL) and API Access
Application programming interfaces for all of the features listed here plus mainstream Yahoo products. Want to download your Yahoo profile? You could write a script to do that.
SQL, Yahoo Pipes, Web 2.0 API’s
The downside? If you want to play, you’ll need a Yahoo user account. Despite Yahoo granting full access to all of its data and applications through APIs, to utilize any of these “open” features, you and your friends will need to move what is on your Facebook or MySpace account and add it to your Yahoo account, too. Yahoo sees this as a way to get more users, and get them using more Yahoo products.
Yahoo’s Ash Patel says the success of the new platform will be measured purely by how much traffic it generates across Yahoo properties.
“For instance,” he says, “the average user using two or three things is now using four or five things. From the point of view of being the biggest publisher on the web, this will really increase the amount of users we have.”
Patel also touched on the attraction for third party developers to get cracking on its APIs. “We can sit here at Yahoo and we can guess all these applications [that users want], or we can get all this information out and let developers build it themselves.”
Furthermore, Yahoo’s Application Platform allows developers access to Yahoo applications in innovative new ways. For instance, the ability to build applications (complete with ads) for integration on Yahoo’s front page, which, according to Patel, is the most-used starting point on the web. Building an app for these pages gives software companies an opportunity to tap Yahoo’s audience for both users and advertising money. Also, Yahoo’s upcoming OpenMail feature will allow users to build applications on top of Yahoo Mail — similar to Google’s Gmail Labs, except at the hands of third-party developers.
Yahoo is rolling out these features over time. Users saw the first wave with SearchMonkey, BOSS and FireEagle earlier this summer. Last week’s refresh of Yahoo Profiles, complete with its new Update application, was the first consumer-end piece of the platform. Sometime next week, Yahoo’s Application Platform (including OpenSocial integration), YQL database and Yahoo APIs will see a first-stage release.
Further in the future, we’ll see the rest of Yahoo’s many properties begin to utilize all of the new features of the platform.
Yahoo just released results of an OpenID usability study. Though there’s a silver lining, the news is mostly not good. Although we’re big fans of OpenID, it’s definitely not yet ready for mainstream adoption.
The study observed nine female Yahoo users in their thirties who considered themselves of medium-to-high internet savvy. The participants were told they could log in with their Yahoo ID at a third-party site. In many cases, the users tried to log in using the site’s main login, rather than the OpenID login. Users don’t understand multiple ways to log in, at least not without some education.
Unfortunately, the problems continue even when the user knows about OpenID. The module which lists popular providers, including Yahoo, confused users. There is no spot for a password, which seems strange to even advanced users (though this is becoming more popular with financial sites for security). Then comes Yahoo’s OpenID process, which is confusing for users that haven’t already added OpenID to their Yahoo account.
As our economy sours, more and more nervous technologists are writing off Web 2.0 as dead. We believe web 2.0 (whatever it really means) isn’t on the decline, the economy is. The web is evolving. In fact, there’s no sign it will ever stop.
There are plenty of reasons to cast fingers upwards and claim the sky looks a lot closer than it did yesterday. The economy is in big trouble. An unprecedented $700 billion bailout by the government failed to quell a stock market crash. Those scarred by the dot-com crash of 2001 and 2002 are starting to see the signs of another bubble popping.
Om Malik refers to Web 2.0 as an age of naiveté culminating in the end of innocence.
Publishing magnate Tim O’Reilly makes the argument in a Los Angeles Times interview that it’s time for developers to get serious and stop making frivolous widgets and sheep-throwing applications.
Michael Arrington at Techcrunch is eagerly making the case for Web 2.0′s failure (and good riddance), as evidenced by financial budget cutting by angel investors.
Business Week’s Rob Hof, on the other hand, takes a more modest approach. He argues the ideas and momentum of Web 2.0 continues and pundits’ words should be supplemented with a dose of skepticism.
We are inclined to agree with Hof’s take. Granted, we’ll all be able to track the tightening of purse strings as the economy continues its recession. However, carefully tailored from the lessons of 2001 and 2002, Silicon Valley is more prepared than ever for economic downturn. Ever since the bubble burst in 2001, every startup’s economic volatility has been built into Web 2.0′s culture. “You’ll never know when the next bubble will burst” was the underlying worry to keep every new startup honest.
Just because a social network or video site may not make it through a recession doesn’t mean the end to Ajax, APIs, widgets and the continuing design theories of big buttons, graphs, tabbed menus and large text. New APIs and standards will continue to be developed. People will continue to buy sheep-throwing applications and stupid viral messaging widgets for fun. We fail to see how a widget developer will stop making profitable but trifling apps in order to “get serious.”
But, we continue to see an era of advancement through social experiments and feature innovation, zombie apps and all.
Perhaps nothing was as jolting to the opportunistic idealism of the late ’90s as the dot-com bomb. Today, we are seeing some very similar symptoms and can foresee some serious challenges in the recession-burdened future. Here are some of the web’s challenges we can look forward to, regardless of which version we’re on:
The Decline of Social Networks
Social networks are fun and a great way to build a small community in what would normally be a fairly large and disconnected network called the internet. Social networks made the internet smaller for people, but the question of what value is added by social networks is one that we cannot yet answer. Making money has always been a problem for these sites, and social networks are the trendiest things on the internet. One day you’re MySpace, the next you’re Facebook. Unless social networks learn to monetize and compete with the thousands of new sites popping up every day, social networks may be the first to feel the pinch.
The End of Cartoony Logos
The cartoony logo. It’s the mainstay of the Web 2.0 design lexicon. However, some will argue cartoony is too hard to take seriously. It projects an image that doesn’t grow well with a serious company. Even Jeff Veen, a former Google employee, discounted the Google logo as “ugly” and “childish.” There are new and innovative ways to visualize information, and Veen takes an interest in following those trends. However, in many ways, design tastes change as often as music trends. It is difficult to make an argument how web design trends are direct reflections of the economic atmosphere.
The Decline of Web 1.0 Companies Yahoo and Ebay
Ebay was one of the first companies to start laying off people in 2008. The site’s decreasing traffic and sales show a decline of one of the stalwarts of Web 1.0. And despite some promising new technological strategies coming out of Yahoo, like its open application platform and the geo-aware Fire Eagle service, the economic situation in Sunnyvale seems to be going more red than purple.
The Decline of the Ad-Supported Free Technology Model
We don’t buy the prophecy that the ad-supported application model will soon end. We’re all very lucky much of Web 2.0 was funded by the enlarged wallet of ads, itself a construct of technology we can thank Web 2.0 applications like Google AdWords and Yahoo Search Marketing for.
Sorry, just because your website doesn’t make enough money off of an ad-revenue model doesn’t mean the theory itself is flawed. Some web applications, mostly sites with content, are just better equipped to use this model than others. The ad-based model probably wouldn’t work as a sole source of revenue for your local YMCA. Why would it work for your social network?
What Web Infinity Looks Like
Perhaps the general malaise around Web 2.0 isn’t due to the withering of the concepts behind it, but rather the term itself. In fact, maybe proclaiming its death reflects a way to wipe the slate clean of the overwhelming bad news over the past few months.
The web has never ceased to be an exciting innovative place for business and technology. Even if certain elements of web 2.0 get old, this industry has a resilience and will buckle down and weather the storm to make the case for innovation far into the future. Sure, the industry will tighten its belt and we’ll see people claiming a web 3.0, 4.0, etc… Luckily for all of us, web technology is still in its infancy, and perhaps it will always be this way.
What do you think. Is Web 2.0 over? State your opinion in comments
Yahoo unveiled a free web analytics service for its e-commerce customers and others who work closely with Yahoo. Though it is not yet widely available, the pressure of Google’s similar offering means we’ll all likely have access to it eventually.
Though I haven’t used either IndexTools or its reborn version, it seems like a powerful tool. The real-time reporting is something that sets it apart. Google Analytics is more useful to look at yesterday’s traffic than today’s. Yahoo also claims to store raw traffic data instead of an aggregated version. With raw data you can slice and dice the historical data any way you want.
“Yahoo! Web Analytics will be made available to a wide range of Yahoo!’s customers, partners, developers and advertisers in stages throughout the rest of 2008 and into 2009.”
If you don’t fit into one of those groups, you might try setting up a small search marketing campaign, which is likely to be the cheapest way to get invited. When Google first rolled out Analytics, an Adwords account was required.
There’s also a form to receive updates at the Web Analytics page.