Services & Software

BrowserPlus escapes Yahoo walled garden

Any Web site now may use Yahoo's software for giving Web-based applications some of the richer abilities of native software. Also, a new version brings new plug-ins.

Yahoo has improved its BrowserPlus technology for more sophisticated Web applications and now lets other Web sites besides its own use it, the company said.

BrowserPlus, like Google's Gears, is software that can be plugged into a person's Web browser to make Web-based applications work more like native desktop programs.

One key feature, for example, is a better upload interface that gets around the tedious requirement at most Web sites that people individually select each photo, video, or other file to be uploaded. Another is desktop notifications, letting a Web-based e-mail, calendar, or instant messaging application notify a person of a new message or event reminder, for example.

Yahoo debuted BrowserPlus in May, but it released a new version quietly on Friday. New features include some ability to store data on the user's computer, which also is one of Gears' big selling points, and "playful support for motion sensors...on specific laptops," Lloyd Hilaiel of Yahoo's BrowserPlus team said in a blog posting Monday.

Yahoo apparently is hoping the features will increase adoption of the software. "It makes it possible for anyone to use BrowserPlus on their own Web site to implement better in-browser uploading and desktop notifications," Hilaiel said. Previously, BrowserPlus only would work with sites such as Yahoo's Flickr.

The company also bills BrowserPlus as a desirable plug-in framework: once users have it installed, people can let Web sites add new abilities to their browsers without having to restart their browsers. Right now, though, only Yahoo may supply the plug-ins.

Current BrowserPlus plug-ins include features to enable image editing, drag-and-drop operations, PStore for storing data, and an interface for an operating system's text-to-speech engine.

Because BrowserPlus, like Gears, is a narrowly used project, Web site designers can't count on it being installed, but they can offer some new features to people who do have it running.

Those who want to try it out can check Yahoo's BrowserPlus developer site, also newly launched.