During a post-keynote luncheon with a few reporters, Yahoo CTO Ari Balogh and Yahoo Open Strategy (Y!OS) chief architect Neal Sample shared more details about the inside-out rewiring of the Web giant.
Balogh said that co-founder and CEO Jerry Yang is taking a personal interest in the project, which began in earnest as part of Yang's 100-day plan, which he created when he took the helm of the company from Terry Semel in September of last year. He noted that Y!OS was started before Microsoft came knocking on Yahoo's door. Balogh joined Yahoo from VeriSign just prior to Microsoft's February 1, 2008 takeover bid.
Y!OS is expected to have a material impact on Yahoo's page growth and time spent on the site, as well as revenue. It was baked into the calculations projecting a doubling of its operating cash flow from $1.9 billion to $3.7 in the three-year span.
Version 1.0 of what is being called Y!Open will be released at some unspecified time later this year, and will include a development environment for several properties, a social "activator" and graph engine, an events engine, and a single profile for users, Balogh said.
The activator engine handles the combining of different relationship groupings, such as the Yahoo Mail e-mail address book, Yahoo Messenger contacts, Flickr friends, Yahoo 360, and Yahoo Mash, Sample said. Yahoo will be careful to protect user privacy and won't apply the information without user consent, he added.
"We have to replumb Yahoo to use a single profile and create feeds, a way to consume feeds and Web services APIs and to layer those mechanisms into the platform," Balogh said.
Yahoo is part of the OpenSocial Foundation, along with Google and MySpace, and will be using the specification as part of the Yahoo application framework (see the slide below). OpenSocial allows applications to work across the major social networks, except Facebook at this point, without modification.Users will have single control panel for assigning where they want the applications to live. Developers will be incented to carry the unified Yahoo user experience with them across other services, although it's not required by the OpenSocial specification, Sample said.
Initially, Yahoo will be vetting applications that touch Yahoo Mail. "We don't want to risk exposing user data," Sample said. "Once they prove themselves we can open up more. We are starting with a toe in the water."
SearchMonkey is the first fruit of Yahoo's new open initiative. It allows developers to alter the presentation of search results, is currently in limited beta and will be in general release within the next several weeks, Balogh said.
Compared to creating a social graph and scaling the back end for 500 million users and 10 billion latent relationships among the Yahoo clan, SearchMonkey is relatively simple feat of openness.
Yahoo has an ambitious and complex task ahead to deliver version 1.0 within this year amidst other distractions, such as Microsoft's courtship of the company. Balogh talks a good game: "The goal is nothing short of creating the best developer environment for creating Internet applications across the Web." Now Yahoo has to show that it can execute.