SAN FRANCISCO--Speaking at the Web 2.0 Expo here Thursday, Yahoo CTO Ari Balogh revealed how the company is transforming itself into an open and social platform from the ground up.
"We are taking open to a whole other place," Balogh said. "We are rewiring Yahoo from the inside out with a developer platform that will open up the assets of Yahoo in a way never done before, making the consumer experience social throughout and provide hooks to developers." He noted that Yahoo has 10 billion latent connections across its properties, such as mail, messenger and fantasy sports. (See video of Balogh on stage at Web 2.0 Expo, at the bottom of this story.)
The first example of Yahoo's new openness is SearchMonkey, which was first announced in February. SearchMonkey lets developers build data services for modifying the presentation of search results. Developers create mini applications, using structured data from Yahoo search or from other sources. The goal is get users from to "do" to "done" much more quickly, Balogh said. "We are making the search engine result richer and fundamentally more relevant."
"This is just the tip of the iceberg," Balogh proclaimed. The front page of Yahoo, mail and other properties will be transformed. For example, the mail welcome page will surface messages more relevant to users and the experience will be contextualized to drive the relevant user experience, he said. Users will be able to add applications from Yahoo and third parties on various Yahoo sites and pages, including the home page of Yahoo. "We are rewiring the properties and opening up properties in a consistent way," Balogh said. "It won't be 25 or 30 different experiences."
Balogh discussed the technical architecture--known as YOS, or Yahoo Open Strategy--including an application platform that will allow developers to create apps for consumers to keep their data protected and to chose what data to share and with whom. In addition, Yahoo will unify all profiles for users and developers, which will allow the company to leverage the 10 billion relations and 500 million users to create the social graph of relationships and to manage the event stream (what Facebook calls the Newsfeed).
"We are not creating another social network. We will rewire the entire experience to make it social. We don't think of social as a destination but as a dimension," Balogh said. Along with Google and MySpace, Yahoo is a member of the OpenSocial Foundation, which is developing a specification for building social applications.
"Tremendous creativity will released...It's all about the consumer. We want to enable developers to do all kinds of things with the assets. We need to have a consistent view, and to take a single application that can end up in multiple places and put it exactly where they want it and to choose how and where to share data," Balogh said.
Balogh said that the major transformation of the Yahoo experience will begin later this year, with the first version of what he called Y!Open, including the social graph and tools for developers, as well as event stream feeds (which he called "Vitality").
Y!Open is an ambitious revitalization of Yahoo and way to inject a viral and sticky social dimension into the core of the service. If Yahoo's earnings don't inspire Microsoft to raise its bid, perhaps this vision for transforming the Web icon will.