Yahoo may resemble islands of Web properties, but the company is launching a renovation that could turn it into one huge platform. On Thursday, Yahoo announced its Open Strategy at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco.
"Imagine a world where you can write code that will meaningfully reach millions of users in a single bound," wrote Yahoo's Neal Sample on the company's Yodel Anecdotal blog.
'Latent Social Network'
Open Strategy invites developers to use Yahoo's huge scale, he added, "to write applications that build on our existing properties," such as Mail, Sports, Search, the front page, mobile, My Yahoo, and others. Yahoo-owned properties also include the photo-sharing site Flickr, the bookmarking site Del.icio.us, and the social-calendar site Upcoming.
Sample also noted that, with 500 million unique users spending 235 billion minutes each month on its sites, and with 10 billion relationships in buddy lists and Yahoo address books, the company has "a massive, latent social network." The new initiative, he added, will "bring it to the surface."
In other words, he told news media, Yahoo is not building another social network, but "building social into everything we do."
He described it as a "rewiring" of Yahoo by building structures that change how its pieces work together. He said developers will be able to take advantage of the "vitality" that will exist within this unified platform. An application written for a Yahoo property will be able to integrate with other properties and with the extended social network.
Example: Search Monkey
An example is Yahoo's Search Monkey, where developers can blend other data with search results so that, for instance, an Italian restaurant could have reviews and ratings along with the link to its Web site. Search Monkey officially launches in mid-May.
Charlene Li, an analyst with industry research firm Forrester, wrote on her blog that Yahoo's rewiring "is a significant step forward in the next phase of social networks and the social Web."
Social networks, she said, will at some point become "like air," with no boundaries between friends or work colleagues, regardless of where their personal network is based.
In March, Yahoo announced support for OpenSocial standards so that applications created by developers for Yahoo will also work on MySpace, Google and other sites accepting OpenSocial.
Li wrote that she does not see Open Strategy as a "Hail Mary pass" from Yahoo to counter Microsoft's efforts to acquire the company. She added that it's only a matter of time before Google, Facebook and other sites respond to the huge social environment and social driver that Yahoo can become.
"Open" has had a major emphasis by Yahoo recently. Earlier this month, for instance, it released an online advertising-management platform for businesses that includes an open set of application-programming interfaces, or APIs.
Also this month, Yahoo released a new version of its oneSearch technology for mobile devices, which it described as "an open technology platform."