Yahoo Opens Up to Developers

Yahoo opened its arms to developers on Tuesday.

The launch of the Yahoo! Search Developer Network is a first step on expanding the ranks of developers building applications that take advantage of Yahoo’s technology and services. The network will evolve into a one-stop resource that provides developers with access to Web service application programming interfaces (APIs) for Yahoo Search and Overture, Yahoo’s pay-per-click advertising subsidiary.

“We’re beginning to make life simpler for developers,” said Eckart Walther, senior director of product management for Yahoo Search.

The Yahoo Search Developer Network offers mailing lists and discussion groups, an application showcase, a Weblog, and a wiki so that developers can ask questions and share information. The site provides sample code for the most popular Web application development languages including Java, java-script, Perl, Python and PHP.

Using the Web services APIs , developers can add functions to third-party sites, such as Web, image, news and video search, weather and mapping. For example, someone publishing information about a city could call Yahoo’s local search API to display the top five restaurants. A publisher that allowed site visitors to leave comments could automatically run those comments through Yahoo’s spellchecker.

Walther said that eventually, developers will be able to access a full set of APIs, including ways to add advertising or other money-making opportunities to their own Web sites.

At launch, search engine marketers, direct advertisers and other third party developers will be able to build applications that manage and analyze their search marketing campaigns on Overture. At this point, Walther said, Yahoo is targeting medium-sized companies that might be managing thousands of keywords using an internal campaign management system. Before, Overture only allowed API access to partners. “This is much more of a B2B API set,” he said. “It’s the first step to opening it up to all developers, not just large advertisers.”

But the increased access is still a far cry from Google’s self-service pay-per-click advertising system, which lets advertisers pay with credit cards and publishers apply ads to their Web pages.

Walther said that letting publishers place Overture ads on their sites was “something we should do also.” He wouldn’t comment on whether Yahoo plans to add self-service advertising, but added, “We’re very closely listening to what folks are asking us to do.”

Yahoo Search is chasing Google , the leader. According to Nielsen/NetRatings, Google handled 47 percent of total searches in January 2005; Yahoo performed 21 percent; and MSN Search had a 13 percent share. Google released its first developer APIs in April 2002.

Walther said the APIs would benefit Yahoo in two ways: Interesting new applications from third-party developers would benefit consumers, thereby making Yahoo itself more valuable to them; and it will help the company create tighter relationships with the developer community.

“They get to know us better, it’s a great recruiting tool, and it gets people excited about Yahoo,” Walther said.

The announcement comes as Jupitermedia’s Search Engine Strategies conference gets under way in New York, with Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang slated to deliver a keynote address.

Web companies like eBay and have found that offering Web services APIs can extend their markets. CEO Jeff Bezos recently told an audience, “With APIs, we can let the ecosystem develop and get innovative things we ourselves may never have thought of or gotten to.”

Yahoo also announced that its Overture Services ad division is being re-branded to be called Yahoo Search Marketing Solutions. The integration will bring its sponsored search offerings and Yahoo’s listings within the same group.

In conjunction with Overture’s re-branding, Yahoo is also launching a new Advertising Solutions Center in the U.S., where businesses can plan and buy the company’s Search Marketing Solutions products. In addition, the company said the new center would offer marketers information about Yahoo’s customized, creative media solutions.

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