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Yahoo to Developers: Wait and See

Yahoo and Microsoft
Yahoo has spent much of the past year and change talking up its efforts to reach out to the developer community, offering up access to some of its choice Web properties as it evangelizes about the innovation that sprouts from such a culture of openness.

So what happens now?

Two of Yahoo's (NASDAQ: YHOO) signature developer initiatives have involved search, which the company announced yesterday it plans to outsource to Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) in an elaborate 10-year deal.

Through the deal, Microsoft would provide the technology (so all Web searches on a Yahoo site would read "Powered by Bing," Microsoft's recently relaunched "discovery engine"), and Yahoo would take over the global ad sales operations for the combined search entity.

So where does that leave BOSS and SearchMonkey? BOSS, or Build your Own Search Service, is the API Yahoo made available to developers last July who wanted to pipe Yahoo's search infrastructure into their own sites. SearchMonkey, rolled out last May, offers developers access to structured data to show more of the content on their sites as they appear in a listing of Yahoo's search results. A restaurant could use SearchMonkey to annotate its search listing so that a menu, reviews or driving directions would show up on a results page, for instance.

Writing in a blog post in response to the concerns that many developers had expressed about the fate of these programs, Yahoo Developer Network head Chris Yeh offered a not-so-comforting "wait and see."

"For SearchMonkey and BOSS, we currently do not have anything concrete to tell you," Yeh said. "Clearly, we'll need to work with Microsoft to determine what makes the most sense for you and for us."

Executives from both companies on yesterday's call admitted that there will be countless details to work through as they merge their platforms, the fate of Yahoo's developer initiatives presumably being among them.

In a statement e-mailed to InternetNews.com, a Microsoft spokesman held out hope that there could be room for some of Yahoo's developer initiatives in the Bing brand, but offered little in the way of concrete assurance.

"We like Yahoo's approach with SearchMonkey and BOSS, and are open to trying to take Yahoo's best ideas and integrating them into Bing," the spokesman said. "Right now our focus is on getting to a great No. 2 player in search for consumers and advertisers."

Ashim Chhabra, a member of Yahoo's BOSS team, offered an equally uncertain appraisal of the initiative's future after the Microsoft deal.

"What specifically does it mean for BOSS? Honestly the team is still absorbing the implications and we just don't know," Chhabra said. "We can tell you that BOSS will remain live for the time being."

Yeh noted that all non-search developer applications would be unaffected by the Microsoft deal, including the APIs that enable developers to build apps for Yahoo Mail, MyYahoo and, soon, the recently redesigned Yahoo home page.

Of course, Yahoo and Microsoft still need to secure regulatory approval before the deal can go forward, which they are hoping will happen in the first half of next year. At that point, they will begin integrating their engineering and sales operations in earnest, a process that's likely to see considerable shakeup at both companies and, they hope, be completed worldwide within two years of the regulators' sign-off.

Update adds comment from Microsoft.