Yahoo Plans to Open Up its Sites and Services

by Ostatic Staff - Sep. 12, 2008

I haven't been a big fan of the moves that Yahoo has made recently, but I like the sound of their latest move--opening up their online services and pages to third-party developers, as reported today by the Wall Street Journal. Reporting from a briefing held at the company's Silicon Valley headquarters, the Journal says that everything from Yahoo's home page to Yahoo Mail would become fair game for outside developers--a more open Yahoo. Here's how this may make a lot of sense.

I remember when Yahoo was a brand new site on the web, Jerry Yang--currently the CEO--used to say that Yahoo's strategy centered on the fact that "users will create most of the content on the Internet, not publishers." That flew in the face of popular notions of the web at the time, where it was widely viewed as a publishing medium.

The strategy worked for Yahoo from the perspective of building large communities of users, but the company has always had trouble monetizing its huge community. By opening up its popular pages and becoming a kind of uber-portal to outside services, Yahoo could drum up quite a bit of business.

The Journal's story says this:

"The efforts...range from allowing users to search other content -- such as classified-ad sites -- from within Yahoo Mail to allowing them to access online music download services like that of from within Yahoo Music."

Yahoo is also working with outside developers on several of these initiatives. Reaching out to services around the web, and developers who can tap newfound Yahoo openness, could be an important bridge between Yahoo's huge community and revenue streams that could be meaningful.

What remains to be seen is the answer to the classic "how open is open?" question. Will the company place strict limits on what outside developers can change and build? If by open they really mean open, there could be many open source projects that could benefit from reaching out to the Yahoo community. This is one to keep an eye on.