Yahoo's OpenHackDay shows shape of the web to come. They hope.

Yahoo’s Open Hack Day London happened this weekend, encouraging the European developer community to get down and dirty with the company’s open strategy platforms.

Making use of Yahoo’s now considerable amount of APIs (beautifully rendered in Tube map stylee), the 250+ developers gathered at Congress Centre in Covent Garden and hacked away on a range of projects that ran the gamut from ‘fun but pointless’ to ‘fun and amazingly helpful’ to ‘fun and potentially world-changing’, calling at all stops in between.

The judging panel comprised a handful of internet worthies; Yahoo co-founder David Filo, Spotify founder Daniel Ek, Matt Biddulph, CTO of Dopplr; Mozilla Labs’ Pascal Finette; and Tim O’Donoghue, VP engineering at Yahoo Europe and Sophie Major, who heads up Yahoo’s international developer network.

Taking a look at the winning hacks, you can get a feel for what these shapers think the internet of the future will look like: as a fundamental principle, it’s open; it’s social, it’s centred around search and it helps the everyday user make sense of their community, their government, their environment and engage in meaningful ways with their friends, neighbours and world around them.

A prime example is OpenFreecycle, which won the popular vote as well as the judges’ ‘best of show’ award.

Developed by Premasagar Rose and Tom Leitch, it uses the information in the Freecycle network, which operates via a series of closed, private Yahoo Groups, to represent more clearly what’s offered or wanted in a particular area. The prototype works for the Leeds group only, but the guys plan to extend it to include other groups, as well as adding alert notifications for particular items, and a Greasemonkey script for shopping sites like eBay or Amazon to let users know when an item similar to the one they’re thinking of buying is available for free in their local community.

Here are the winning hacks, all the submitted hacks, plus loads of related video and pics via TweetMeme.

[Mike Butcher writes]: Yahoo’s David Filo and senior product management director Cody Simms were also at the event drumming up support for their Open Strategy, announced in April last year. I had a brief chat with Filo at the Friday press conference:


Yahoo’s strategy is all about increasing user engagement across the network, so creating the Y!OS works notionally as an idea, since it creates the underlying platform which will help to link Yahoo’s disparate services.

Of course, ultimately this is something of a last throw of the dice for Yahoo and comes about four years too late. CEO Carol Bartz has already said Yahoo must look at slimming its portfolio of sites, so whether they are linked or not will probably be a footnote when the history of Yahoo is written. More important is its survival against Google’s search advertising monster, and for that it will probably have to look to a search deal with Microsoft for the answers – a story which changes daily.

Yahoo also says it’s Open Strategy has nothing to do with its recent 5% staff cut. Personally I don’t think the two are related – but aren’t all these free, third party developers building even more new services handy…

At least Yahoo is commendably committed to opening up the login platform via OpenID and Open Auth.