Yahoo Unloads With Major Search API Updates

After about a year of uncertainty, Yahoo provided visibility on their Search! alliance with Microsoft. They announced  important updates to their API offerings, including axing some and making another a paid service. Developers who have built their products on the Yahoo API or planning to, need to take note of these changes.

Neal Sample, VP of Social, Open & Publishing Platforms, explained the reason for the changes to the APIs:

Today we’re making some important announcements on the transition of our Search Back-end infrastructure to Microsoft, and how this transition impacts the Search APIs and web services we offer on the Yahoo! Developer Network. We are also sharing specific news about several of our other developer services.

It's quite a list of services under one announcement: BOSS, YQL, Search Monkey, Site Explorer, Location Based services and MyBlogLog. Most are significantly changing, or going away.

Search Monkey and MyBlogLog will both be discontinued. The Search Monkey tools are no longer going to be available and MyBlogLog API will stop working by year end. We put MyBlogLog on Deathwatch in January and when Yahoo announced its search deal with Bing, Search Monkey looked like the biggest loser.

Bing, BOSS and SearchMonkey

Yahoo BOSS is going to stay but with significant changes. BOSS will integrate web and image search results from Bing, though some other search related content will be from Yahoo. When the transition to Bing is complete, BOSS will be a paid service. There are plans to help developers monetize their offerings and potential revenue sharing, but without any clarity on them.

Similarly Site Explorer tools will continue to stay with there is no immediate requirement to move over to Bing Webmaster Center. Yahoo will continue to Feed your site information over from Site Explorer into Bing Webmaster Center and web masters will be informed on the progress of transitioning over completely to Bing, at which point in time, Bing Webmaster Center will need to be the tool of choice.

The only service that has not changed but in fact, has strengthened itself in terms of its offering is YQL. It has established itself as the offering that is core to all Yahoo Services now. YQL is excellent in the sense it takes away the need to work with each API and instead lets the developer work with a high level SQL-like abstraction to web services. It does not look like Yahoo had a choice over here since several applications including their own ones are now so tightly linked to YQL that any discontinuation or changes to this service could have wide spread consequences.

The one area where no clarity was provided was around Location Based Services. As per the blog entry, these include Yahoo Maps and Yahoo Local Search. Changes to those services will be announced in September.

It has not been the easiest of times for Yahoo and the switch to a paid service may be a sign of future strategies. It would be an interesting move, given the company's competitors tend to offer free services. The challenge facing Yahoo, if more APIs go paid, is to explain the revenue model to developers and most importantly have a few initial success stories to share.

Be sure to read the next API article: Email Yak Offers Web Based Email API