Yahoo wants you to hack its homepage

Yahoo has opened the application floodgates to its home page, with hopes that external developers will soon build tens of thousands of programs that’s more than 330 million visitors will find useful.

Although Yahoo announced its intention to do this last week, the company will blare out the message at its Open Hack Day conference in New York City on Friday and Saturday.

The event, an intense confab for third-party developers, advertisers and Web publishers that includes educational and hands-on sessions, will be held in the Big Apple for the first time.

“We’re excited to go to New York City and have the opportunity to sit before a big publisher and advertiser audience, in addition to developers of course, and let them know that the largest home page on the Internet is now open and available to them to find an audience through,” said Cody Simms, senior director of product management for Yahoo’s Open Strategy (YOS) initiative.

Announced in April 2008, YOS aims to open all of the company’s online services, sites and applications to third-party developers, as well as give end users a “social profile” dashboard to unify and manage their Yahoo services.

Swinging wide open the doors of to external developers is a big milestone in this ambitious effort. Until now, Yahoo has erred on the conservative side when it comes to allowing tightly-integrated applications for its home page, opting to work individually with hand-picked partners.

“The reason was we wanted to test the openness in Yahoo and ensure it was something our users wanted. We also wanted to solve a lot of the hard problems around security and user experience,” Simms said.

In an era when external developers have created 350,000 applications for Facebook, Yahoo has decided to make the process of building applications for a more self-service one through the company’s year-old Yahoo Application Platform (YAP).

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“This is the first time we now have a self-service channel for developers to push their applications into Yahoo,” Simms said.

Any developer can now go to the Yahoo home page section of the Application Platform’s Web site and get started right away.

Yahoo expects the catalog of applications for to grow swiftly, as has happened with other Web sites that have opened their platforms up to all interested developers, with Facebook being the biggest success story so far.

“Now that the technology is live, we hope to attract a broad developer base,” he said.

“We want to give our end users a very broad choice of applications to add to their [home page] experience that satisfies their personal interests, the niches they love,” Simms added.

As a big selling point, Yahoo will stress the massive traffic that its home page attracts: more than 330 million people worldwide.

“Our audience is the platform developers get access to,” he said.

The first Yahoo Open Hack Day was held in the company’s headquarters in Sunnyvale, California in 2006. Since then it has also been held in London, Bangalore, Taiwan and Brazil. It’s the first time it travels to New York City in what will be its 10th edition.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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