Yahoo is turning up the heat up on its developer platform, which is turning out to be a key battle ground as all the major portals (AOL, Google, MSN, Yahoo, eBay, Amazon, etc.) try to open up their technology as a way to earn more time and attention (= revenue) from tens or hundreds of millions of users and developers. Yesterday, AOL opened up AOL Instant Messenger (63 million users), allowing developers to create their own versions of AIM after years of keeping it locked up.
At Etech, Yahoo is announcing APIs that hook into Yahoo Photos, Calendar, MyWeb and Shopping, as well as browser-based authentication. With the new APIs, developers will be able to build custom applications on top of Yahoo Photos, drill down into Yahoo Shopping categories for improved browsing, write applications that make it easier for users to access Yahoo Calendar from other Web sites and have the capability to read and write to MyWeb 2.0. The APIs will be available over the next few months, according to Jeffrey McManus, director of the Yahoo Developer Network.
The browser-based authentication allows third-party developers to authenticate users via Yahoo’s authentication service. A user making a request is redirected to Yahoo for authentication, and then redirected back to the site to fulfill the request. “The scheme is very secure and private,” McManus said. “It cannot be exploited without the users’ knowledge.”
For example, you may want to send your Yahoo photos to another Web application to arrange then in a certain way that Yahoo's service doesn’t accommodate. Browser-based authentication provides a programmatic way to engage in the activity securely. eBay also provides this kind of authentication Web service for its community, and Microsoft’s Passport has similar functionality, McManus said.
“We explain in detail what the user is agreeing to, such as an application wants to upload your Yahoo photos,” McManus said. “If you don’t want to accept it, then say no. You can later decide to accept or revoke permission from a developer.”
Yahoo is also prepping an Application Gallery to collect all the third-party applications from across all of the company’s platforms, such as search, maps, music and widgets. “In the last eleven months since we started the group [Yahoo Developer Network], various parts of Yahoo started galleries. Now we are creating a new consumer facing Web site to showcase the application talents of third-party developers using Yahoo technology. It will first be available to developers only—the paint is still drying,” McManus said. The site will include the rating and reviews functionality from Yahoo Local, as well as RSS feeds and tagging to enhance search, he added.
McManus also noted that Yahoo is revising its API licensing. “Most Web services today are licensed under non-commercial licenses and rate limited,” McManus said. “We are working on commercial license terms for access to search, maps and other services that have a more generous rate limit.” Currently, the search API is limited to 5,000 calls per site today, and 50,000 for the maps API.
In addition, McManus told that Yahoo will begin beta testing a revenue sharing program for sites that integrate with Yahoo Shopping. Currently, it’s a limited program and the selection of sites will be based on a few parameters—such as uniqueness and amount of traffic—and the revenue share will depend on the type of site and other criteria. Sounds more like an alpha than beta service at this point.