Yahoo Unveils Webtop Plugin, BrowserPlus, Before It's Ready


As Web and desktop applications merge, Yahoo doesn’t want to be left out of the Webtop party. That’s especially true as Adobe Air and Google Gears apps begin to gain some traction (for instance, see the MySpace-Gears announcement from earlier today). It turns out that for the past year Yahoo has been working on BrowserPlus, a browser plugin that lets developers add desktop-like features to the browser, including the ability to drag-and-drop items from the desktop onto the browser, manipulate Web images (crop, rotate, etc.), and receive desktop notifications. It works with Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer, on both Windows and Mac OS X. (More details here).

BrowserPlus is aimed at developers right now. The idea is that at some point Web surfers will download the plug-in, and developers will be able to tap into its browser extending features (through a Javascript library). The core feature of BrowserPlus apps is that they can be updated on the fly without the need to restart the browser. So developers will be able to add new features to their BrowserPlus apps and they will just appear in user’s browsers.

While all of this is exciting, the timing of the announcement seems odd. Not only is BrowserPlus not available for people to download (even in a private beta), . [Update: BrowserPlus is available for download for Windows and Intel Macs. I was looking at the site with an older Mac, and the download option was hidden from view—not even a notice saying “BrowserPlus is not available for your machine.” Apologies for the confusion]. And developers are only getting a sneak peak. For instance, here are a list of APIs that it supports. But if they really want to play around with BrowserPlus before its official release, they need to send an e-mail to browserplus-feedback[at]yahoo-inc[dot]com.

Why is Yahoo making developers jump through hoops to play with BrowserPlus if it wants their feedback? The answer:

One of the restrictions of this release is that BrowserPlus can only run on sites operated by Yahoo! or its partners.

It’s just not ready yet.