Yahoo hosts developers at Open Hack 2008

Developers encouraged to come up with new programs that integrate with existing Yahoo apps.

Yahoo hosted about 300 developers at its Open Hack 2008 event last weekend, which encouraged participants to build applications on top of the company's products.

The event was held at Yahoo's Sunnyvale, California offices. Developers in attendance could write little programs, called "hacks," said Christopher Yeh, head of the Yahoo Developer Network. "There's this concept of a hack, and [what] we call a hack internally here at Yahoo is a clever or ingenious way that you put together a program that demonstrates something useful and fun," he said.

For example, a developer at Yahoo has built a hack program combining Flickr photos with Yahoo's My Trips, for storing information about vacations. Hacks are typically assembled quickly but based on an innovative concept.

Hacks were not the only method for leveraging Yahoo development technologies. Developers also used the company's BOSS (build your own search service) APIs to create applications. Outside of Yahoo, a developer has built a site called Cluuz, which leverages these APIs to provide enhanced searching featuring images and other related information. Revenue opportunities for Yahoo from such a site could include fees for using search APIs or search advertising, said Yeh.

BOSS caught the attention of Open Hack attendee James Brady, CTO at WebMynd, which provides an extension to the Firefox browser that serves as a personalized search experience. "[BOSS is] a really, really valuable thing for us," Brady said.

"We're thinking we might be able to leverage [Yahoo's] index with the information that we gather to help give our users a better search experience," Brady said.

At the event, the company also touted components of its Yahoo Open Strategy] plan, which was first unveiled in April. Specifically, the company will enable developers to access social data about users for incorporating into applications. Also as part of the plan, the company will open up its Web sites to developers. A developer might, for instance, build an application that tracks a Federal Express package directly from within Yahoo Mail instead of having to leave the mail applications.

Yahoo also discussed technologies such as SearchMonkey, for changing the look and feel of search page results, and Fire Eagle, providing location-based services.

Although Yahoo must compete with Google in the search space, the company focuses on its own technologies rather than centering on the competition, according to Yeh.

"What we do here, we emphasize a much broader range of businesses than Google does," offering products such as search and content Web sites, Yeh said.

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Paul Krill

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