TechCrunch yesterday posted a thoughtful review of the Yahoo! Open Strategy, a strategy that gets us very close to the data portability that many have been advocating for years. Will it be enough to save Yahoo!?
In a way, it doesn't have to. Part of the allure of open source, open standards, and open data is that it removes the need for any particular company to be the be-all, end-all to a customer's experience. While this may not sound like a winning sales strategy, it's definitely a winning user strategy.
As part of its strategy to remain one of the most popular starting points on the Web, Yahoo is making it much easier for data, content, and applications to flow in and out of Yahoo. It is also adding a layer of social awareness to everything it does.
In other words, Yahoo! seems to be hoping to make its services ubiquitous wherever the person happens to be on the web, rather than forcing a user to live within the confines of yahoo.com to derive value. Yahoo! becomes the Web, in a sense.
There are some companies that may have the brand and budget to force users into an end-to-end, you-start-here-you-stop-here-you-live-here experience. Google, Apple, and Microsoft come to mind. But most companies will lack this power, as Yahoo! does, and therefore an open approach makes sense as a way to encourage passers-by to stop in with Yahoo! while en route to somewhere else.
Of course, it's also possible that the more roads Yahoo! can build into and out of its services, the more it will become a gathering place, served up by and through other services (e.g., Facebook, The New York Times, etc.). In Tim O'Reilly-esque, Web 2.0 fashion, this casual, permeable approach to customer "acquisition" could well prove to be a winning strategy by centering network effects of data in Yahoo!.