Kara Swisher

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Open Season at Yahoo?

According to several sources close to Yahoo, the company will outline in much more detail its open-platform strategy next week, in its efforts to keep its cred as a big supporter of openness and also show it has a clear path to reinvigorate itself despite current turmoil.

Yahoo (YHOO) has been accelerating its open activities of late, mostly related to its search and ad infrastructure.


But, in his appearance at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco next Thursday morning at a keynote speech titled “Yahoo and Open Platforms,” sources said Yahoo CTO Ari Balogh (pictured here) will sketch out a more significant broadening out of its open platform plans, which would touch consumers more directly.

That could include opening up everything from communications tools like mail to content to all sorts of products Yahoo offers its users to third-party developers.

In addition, the company plans to make as much of those and its own offerings more distributed, sending it all back out to the Web.

This kind of conceptual shift is something many have felt Yahoo has needed to do in a bolder manner, as consumer interest in massive centralized portals like Yahoo has waned.

The move, in many ways, has shades of what Facebook did last year when it opened its platform up to third-party developers, but also includes a vision of a more widgetized and social Yahoo, and a Yahoo available everywhere.

While Yahoo will not specify a date when all this will roll out, sources said Yahoo had hoped to have much of it in place by the end of the year.

This increasingly massive job of opening up more and more of the Yahoo platform to third-party developers and make its own products, APIs, code and content more highly distributed is being led by Balogh.

Balogh came to Yahoo from VeriSign, just days before Microsoft (MSFT) leveled its unsolicited takeover bid at the company.

Working with Yahoo Co-Founder and tech guru David Filo, Balogh has been given high marks from many sources I talked to within the company for bringing a faster-paced style than under longtime Yahoo CTO Farzad Nazem, who retired a year ago.

At the time, many felt Yahoo’s technology efforts had drifted under Nazem, whose internal nickname was “Zod,” as BoomTown reported back in June of 2007.

Setbacks in its Panama project to rehaul its online search-ad technology and a slowness in focusing on Web 2.0 distributed technologies have clearly contributed to Yahoo’s current predicament, in which its long-suffering stock declined enough to give Microsoft an opportunity to make its move on Yahoo.

Under that backdrop, Balogh is under intense pressure to deliver on one of CEO and Co-Founder Jerry Yang’s key focuses for Yahoo that he reiterated in a letter he sent on Feb. 14 to shareholders after Yahoo rejected Microsoft’s offer.

Underscoring the need to make Yahoo a “starting point” and a “must-buy” ad platform, Yang noted: “These key strategies will be enhanced by our adoption of new, more open technology platforms that will encourage the development of new applications and the involvement of third-party developers–and help enrich the user experience.”


While it does not get the credit it probably deserves, Yahoo has been moved squarely into the open-source space and, in fact, has made a series of announcements since the Microsoft bid from its implementation of Apache’s Hadoop in its search product to its support of the Google-led OpenSocial initiative to its recently announced AMP!, an ad-management software shipping this summer.

AMP!, said Yahoo, would allow “ad networks, through an open set of APIs, to innovate on top of the transparent marketplace.”

Yahoo Technology Evangelist Jeremy Zawodny might have signaled even more announcements in his well-read blog in mid-March, in fact, when he noted that Yahoo was a longtime proponent of open platforms and open-source technology.

Wrote Zawodny, who declined to speak to me yesterday about any further open initiatives, due to its quiet period around earnings next week, wrote on March 14:

“We’ve been on the openness road for a long, long time at Yahoo. And we take it rather seriously. Sometimes it hasn’t been as visible as others, but believe me, the trend is quite clear when you look at all the data. The Open Source adoption and work. The APIs. The way we communicate with users and partners. The Blogs. The RSS feeds…You’ll be reading more and hearing more about openness at Yahoo from me and Yahoo’s much higher up the food chain in the coming months.

Anyone who knows me knows that I come from open source roots and am a big proponent of opening things up more and more. I’d have left Yahoo years ago if I didn’t see it happening.”

Added Zawodny with some mystery: “If you think the last few weeks are big, you haven’t seen anything yet! :-)”

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