Yahoo! Launches Facebook Connect Competitor

A few months back, Yahoo! announced that it would be opening up the site’s services to developers in a significant way. This afternoon the company rolled out a big iteration which has a massive social component. The service has a bunch of features that developers can use to detect any individual web user’s “social presence”. So what are the new component of this open platform and what does it mean for developers?

What’s Being Offered?

First, let’s take a look at what exactly Yahoo! is offering as part of the Yahoo! Open Strategy (Y!OS) 1.0 platform launch:

  • Yahoo! Social Platform – “The Yahoo! Social Platform (YSP) consists of a suite of REST-based social APIs from Yahoo! including: Profiles, Connections, Updates, Contacts and Status.” Sound familiar? It should. The service enables users to develop a new form of social application similar to Facebook applications or MySpace applications. From a technical standpoint the applications are much more similar to MySpace applications because they take advantage of OAuth and REST. They’ve also announced a PHP SDK that developers can use to start programming today.
  • Yahoo! Query Language (YQL) – Remember FQL? If you don’t, it’s the language that developers can use to send SQL-like queries to Facebook instead of making standard API calls to retrieve user information. Yahoo! is releasing a very similar service but they are calling it the “command line version of Pipes.” Whatever they are calling it, this sounds to me a lot like FQL.
  • Yahoo! Application Platform – Wait didn’t we just go over the Social Platform? Yes we did! The main purpose of the Application Platform in contrast to the Social Platform is that it provides a centralized distribution point for applications to Yahoo! users. Back in September I wrote that platforms are the new software distributors and this further supports my assertion. Applications will have canvas pages, landing pages, invitations, notifications, a chrome, updates, and a few other features.

Yahoo! Social Platform is an “Open” Facebook Connect Competitor

Facebook Connect appears to have the best odds of succeeding so far as they have had the most partners roll out sites for any company that we’ve seen so far. Honestly at this point much of the “success” will be determined by a PR battle since none of the technology has been rolled out except for Yahoo! which has now released what appears to be a terrific platform.

It’s clear that many of the features of the Yahoo! Social and Application platforms take cues from Facebook aside from the user interface which for now appears to be completely non-existent outside of the Yahoo! chrome. Just the other day I posted about John McCrea’s lessons from attending the User Experience Summit, which was make things look good (as well as a few other key components ;)).

Yahoo! has a solid chance at boosting their developers to the forefront with critical integration points which could in the future include a link to applications directly on the Yahoo! homepage, something any developer would die for. With so much potential, social application developers are now going to be pushed to their limits.

One additional interesting factoid about Yahoo’s new platforms is that they will be leveraging OAuth and OpenSocial, each open standards for the social web. At this point, Facebook is standing alone and while they still have substantial leverage, if Yahoo! can pull all the right strings, Facebook may be forced to comply. As the Facebook platform becomes more limiting, and social application developers are stretched thin, they are rapidly searching new opportunities for growth.

The Yahoo! platforms could very well be that next place they are looking for.