Yahoo's Updates API Lets You Extend Your Social Network

There are many ways for websites to tap into online social networking services to allow their users to connect with each other. Now, for publishers who want to add social network functions to already existing websites, Yahoo! has announced their new Updates API, a Web Service that provides permission-based access to the actions of any user with a Yahoo! account. As part of Yahoo!'s Open Strategy (Y!OS), this API essentially allows developers to treat the Yahoo! network as a social networking Platform (for more on Y!OS see our coverage of the initial Y!OS announcement and their YQL launch).

As they describe it, it's a read-write API that integrates directly into Yahoo's broad network of sites:

Yahoo! Updates allows you to syndicate user-generated actions on your website (ratings, reviews, comments, favorites, uploads, etc.) to Yahoo!'s massive global distribution network. You can enjoy referral traffic back to your website from across the Yahoo! Network (more than 500M+ monthly unique visitors). You can also use the Yahoo! Updates API to read the stream of activities generated by users."

Interestingly, an early demo of the Updates API features an iGoogle gadget that allows users to follow friends who have Yahoo! accounts. Yahoo's Allen Tom writes:

We're so open, we're even on Google!... because both Yahoo! and Google
support OAuth, any developer can integrate Yahoo! data on iGoogle with
just a few lines of JavaScript.

The Yahoo! Updates API uses a RESTful interface that accepts data in both XML and JSON formats. To implement status updates of a particular user, developers may use GET to read data, and POST and DELETE for reading and writing data. Yahoo! Updates API uses the OAuth open standard to authenticate users (more details at our new Yahoo Updates API profile).

Yahoo! hopes that website publishers will consider using applications built with the Updates API to drive traffic to their sites. With over 500 million unique users worldwide, Yahoo!'s user base is currently over five times the size of social network Facebook. As noted over at Marketing Pilgrim, it remains to be seen if Yahoo!'s moves toward open social networking tools will help it gain a foothold in an increasingly crowded market featuring existing services such as Facebook Connect and Google's Friend Connect.

Be sure to read the next API article: Make Sense of Confusing Twitter Hash Tags