The New Yahoo: Sticky, Viral, And Most Of All, Friendly

Yahoo’s CTO Ari Balogh and Chief Architect (Platforms) Neal Sample filled in a few more details today around their new Yahoo Open Strategy (called YOS internally).


Yahoo wants to turn itself into one big social network-driven site, and simultaneously open many of its core services to get users and developers thinking of Yahoo as their Internet hub. They’ve been talking about parts of this since last November. First were details about how webmail will serve as the social networking hub, followed by more tidbits in January. In March they joined the Google-led Open Social initiative. And they’ve made a series of announcements around Search Monkey which will allow third parties to enhance Yahoo search with structured data.

Yahoo Open Strategy

Yahoo mashes the social stuff and the open stuff under the same banner of YOS. There are three components to the additional news announced today – platformization, opening services, and portability. It’s important to note that nothing has launched, and there’s no public timetable for the launch of any particular part of YOS. Sample said in a briefing today that the pieces will be released over the coming months.

Below is Balogh’s presentation at the web 2.0 Expo:

Platformization: Users will notice this most, as the overall Yahoo experience becomes social. This is driven by (1) the reduction of the dozens of profiles (for each service) they have today to a single, unified Yahoo user profile, and (2) the promotion of the email inbox as the center of the Yahoo experience. Once the profile is centralized they will begin to socialize the services. Think friends lists, activity streams, etc.

Clearly Yahoo isn’t bolting yet another social network onto their existing services. They keep saying that, of course. But even the fact that they refer to this part of it as “platformization” internally shows how they are thinking of this. They’re moving Yahoo to a massive new social network platform, and rewriting large parts of the core functionality.

Open Yahoo: This encompasses a few different things. First, they are now deeply involved in OpenSocial and will allow developers to get access via those common APIs. But they are layering their many existing (and planned) APIs on top of OpenSocial to allow deeper integration with Yahoo services. Users will be able to add these third party applications, built on Open Social and the Yahoo APIs, into Yahoo.

The other piece of this is Yahoo Application Platform (YAP) – which will be a direct competitor to Google App Engine. Users can host their independent applications on Yahoo’s bandwidth, storage, database and CPU resources. At first they’ll support SecurePHP applications only, but they’ll expand to additional languages over time. The model will be very similar to Google’s – free usage up to a point, metered after that. They’ll also offer various developer tools as well.

Portability. Yahoo is also going to promote the spread of Yahoo around the web to third party apps and services. This isn’t just widgets – they’ll also let user data out of the ecosystem. For example, Sample said in the briefing, they’ll facilitate the synchronization of the Yahoo address book with Plaxo (Facebook hated the idea of users doing this, by the way).

Yahoo: Sticky, Viral, Friendly

Yahoo continues to compete in search marketing, the big driver of revenue. But they realize they’ll always be second to Google in that game. So the win for them is to make Yahoo as sticky, friendly, and viral as possible. They have 500 million worldwide visitors per month – nearly 60% of the total Internet audience visits a Yahoo property every month (Google has 72%) (Comscore). That audience can clearly be leveraged, and this is a war that, unlike search marketing, Yahoo thinks they can win.

They still, of course, have to actually launch this massive project – for now it’s all ideas and vaporware. And no one knows what Microsoft thinks of all this, or what happens to YOS if that deal is done.