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Yahoo YQL Update Reaches for Developers

Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) wants to be a platform on which developers build their own services. It's a goal that could be getting a little closer with today's release of YQL Execute.

YQL, short for Yahoo Query Language, is Yahoo's way to enable developers to pull, query and combine the structured data made available via the search giant's Web services and data from other Web sources.

With the new YQL Execute version, Yahoo is extending its technology to enable developers to execute code as well. In addition, Yahoo is also rolling out an updated Web developer tool called YSlow to help improve Web performance.

The developer releases from Yahoo come as the pioneering Web portal searches for new ways to leverage its own skills and infrastructure platform in a challenging economy.

"YQL is our effort to create a uniform interface across Yahoo data, and we extended it so any data source on the Internet can be handled to configure to work with YQL," Chris Yeh, head of the Yahoo Developer Network told InternetNews.com."YQL execute allows JavaScript to run on our services to pre-process or manipulate data on behalf of developers."

Yahoo has been making YQL publicly available since its initial release in October 2008. Sam Pullara, chief technologist for Yahoo Developer Network, explained that YQL itself is a SQL-like language that lets developers access Yahoo APIs. Other APIs can be accessed as long as they are accessible via REST and return output as JSON, XML or even regular HTML.

With Execute, however, Yahoo is taking YQL a step further.

"One of the big uses of YQL Execute is the ability to use authenticated APIs," Pullara told InternetNews.com. "We're trying to give developers the easiest way to select data from the Internet."

Another use-case for YQL Execute explained by Pullara is the ability to do multiple data joins. So a developer could grab an article from a publication, pull out the tags, then use those tags to pull out relevant images in Flickr.

Pullara noted that a popular feature of the original YQL enabled developers to pull raw data from HTML. With YQL Execute after a developer gets the raw html back it can be manipulated for additional data transformations.

Currently YQL Execute is a Yahoo service operating on their infrastructure. The cost for developers is free, though Yahoo does have plans to commercialize the service in the future. Pullara added that Yahoo has not yet finalized how it will go about commercializing YQL, but they're working on it.

Yahoo AppEngine?

While YQL is a developer focused tool, it is not Yahoo's answer to Google's AppEngine. The Google AppEngine is a cloud platform for application delivery which isn't quite where Yahoo it taking YQL.

"When you think of Yahoo's APIs, we're typically offering something that is at a higher level than a Google AppEngine," Pullara argued. "Our long-term monetization strategy will be a number of things including commercial terms as well as the internal leverage of having YQL available to Yahoo developers. It's a big time-saver, even for people that work at Yahoo."

YSlow

Yahoo is also aiming to help out Web developers with their Web performance issues, courtesy of an update to the YSlow tool. YSlow debuted in 2007 as a Mozilla Firefox Add-on to analyze Web site performance characteristics.

Yeh explained that the original tool used 13 different rules to analyze performance impact. With the update, Yahoo is adding nine new rules, as well as the integration of the Smush.it service, which compresses Web images.

Yeh also said Yahoo has no commercial aspirations for that YSlow.

"We work on Web sites a lot, and we have tools that we use internally, and every so often we'll get outside developers ask us for how we deal with problems," Yeh explained. "So every so often, when we get an opportunity to release a tool like YSlow -- which is a good general purpose tool -- it's an opportunity for us to get in front of more people, and we're happy to do it."

Challenges for Yahoo

For Yahoo's Developer Network overall, Yeh claimed that 2008 proved to be a good year, with strong inbound traffic growth. Still, Yeh admitted that Yahoo needs to do more than just grow traffic to be successful.

"We need to measure by real applications that have impact on Yahoo's business," Yeh said. "I think our biggest challenge moving forward will be in going from driving lots of interest inbound to seeing lots of meaningful applications."

We have a lot of work to do still in making our products more useful and viable commercially," he added.