The Great Yahoo! Developer Experiment is Over

From Yahoo! comes word that a number of popular developer products, including the MyBlogLog APIs as well as Maps and Local APIs, are soon to be shut down.

The announcement is as tone-deaf as it is disingenuous; it starts by saying that Yahoo’s “commitment is unwavering” and then goes on to vaguely enumerate the number of products they’re eliminating. (Which begs the question: What does “unwavering” actually mean to Yahoo? If your surgeon has an “unwavering” commitment to your health, is it OK for her to occasionally perform surgery without¬†anesthesia? How much am I permitted to waver and still be able to say that I’m unwavering? Could it be possible that to Yahoo, “unwavering” actually means the opposite of what everyone else in the world thinks it means?)

This is a big problem because for every API that is taken away, applications will break. It’s a bigger problem for Yahoo because the more thoughtlessly they manage their platform, the more difficult it will be for anyone to trust them in the future.

When I went to work for Yahoo in 2005 I was given the mission of opening the company to third-party innovation through Web services and other developer products, to create a platform that would endure for the ages, enabling developers to create amazing new applications (and, hopefully, accelerate Yahoo’s¬†business). It’s become clear to me now that this was really just a poorly-conceived experiment, not a serious attempt at creating a platform, and I say this not as an ex-Yahoo employee, but as someone who advises businesses on platform integration today. In other words, my reaction to this is professional, not personal.

So my professional advice for prospective platform providers is to do whatever you can to avoid emulating Yahoo. For developers and companies who are thinking about doing any kind of integration with Yahoo, do whatever you can avoid them until the company’s commitment to providing an open platform is more clear. From a developer and platform perspective, Yahoo is unsafe at any speed.