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Innovation

Larry misses the mark on Yahoo BOSS

Larry Dignan wrote an article today called "Yahoo's desperate search times call for open source", about this week's announcement of the Yahoo BOSS platform. Unfortunately Larry has gotten it all wrong.
Written by Ed Burnette, Contributor on

Larry Dignan wrote an article today called "Yahoo's desperate search times call for open source", about this week's announcement of the Yahoo BOSS platform. Unfortunately Larry has gotten it all wrong.

The first problem is that Yahoo BOSS is not open source. They've just added some more web service APIs that can be used to create mashups. Heck, it's not even free. According to the FAQ, in order to use the APIs "It will be a requirement to host our ads on your site." Before using the APIs you have to agree to a terms of use document which says, among other things:

Yahoo! reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to charge fees and/or require the display of Yahoo!-supplied advertising on Your Offering, under additional terms and implementation requirements, for future use of or access to some or all of the Services or other APIs made available by Yahoo!. If Yahoo! decides to charge for the Services or require the display of Yahoo!-supplied advertising, such charges and additional terms and conditions (including implementation requirements designed to protect Yahoo! advertising networks and exclusivity for sponsored search advertising) will be disclosed to You prior to the effective date when such fees or requirements would be imposed.

It's open search not open source. And not terribly open for all that.

Second, Larry goes on to condemn moving to open source as sign of desperation in general. "When you go [from] proprietary to open source," he writes, "it’s usually because you’re losing the war and it’s too late." Then he compares the new platform to Netscape Mozilla, RealNetworks Helix, and Sun's investments in MySQL and OpenSolaris.

I feel compelled to point out that despite its rough start, Mozilla is now a poster child for successful open source projects. Mozilla Firefox has forced Microsoft to compete once again in the browser market by capturing a share of nearly 20%. MySQL was open source from the beginning, and would never have captured the imagination of the LAMP generation (Linux-Apache-MySQL-Perl) if it had been yet another proprietary database like Oracle or DB2. Solaris' main competition is Linux, which is open source itself. And let's not forget Eclipse, which started life as a proprietary IDE, but its release as open source spawned a billion-dollar ecosystem surrounding it.

Y!BOSS is not open source, but even if it were, open source is not the dumping ground for lost causes that Larry seems to be implying.

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