Yahoo! For Sale: Will Developers Be Left Behind?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you know that Microsoft is looking to acquire Yahoo! for $42 billion. Yahoo! has rejected the offer and is now reportedly exploring options with other potential buyers, including News Corp and AOL (Time Warner).

Much has been said about what might happen to Yahoo!’s various properties—search, email, and advertising—if the Microsoft acquisition were to go forward. But as a developer, I’m personally curious about what could happen to Yahoo!’s developer outreach initiatives.

Since their launch two years ago, the Yahoo! User Interface (YUI) Library and the Yahoo! Design Patterns Library have set the gold standard for well-documented, reusable JavaScript and user interface design resources. And these resources are just two prominent examples of all the good work Yahoo! has been doing (and giving away) at the Yahoo! Developer Network.

I’d go as far as to say that Yahoo! is the only big web company in business today that I’d trust with the future of the Web. Their continuing efforts to make life better for web developers, their willingness to provide open APIs for getting data into and out of their applications, and their recent investments in open initiatives like OpenID all point to a company that understands the potential of the Web if it is developed openly.

In sharp contrast, Google won’t even bother to serve a proper DOCTYPE declaration on its main search form (the most-visited page on the Web without a DOCTYPE declaration?).

And as for Microsoft, well, the other day I was browsing the Microsoft Downloads site to find a driver for my mouse. Naturally, without a mouse driver, I was navigating the site by keyboard. At least I was, until a pop-up advertisement for the new Silverlight-powered Downloads site covered up the page—with two non-keyboard-accessible buttons to choose from!

Looking at the list of Yahoo!’s suitors, I shudder to think of what any of these companies would do to Yahoo!’s efforts towards making the Web a better place for developers. The optimist might hope for Yahoo!’s culture to spread to its acquirer, but I’m not holding my breath.

When Yahoo! is eventually acquired—and the analysts seem to agree it’s now a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’—is there any other big company prepared to step up and take the lead, here?

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  • http://www.magain.com/ mattymcg

    Well said Kev. I admire and applaud Yahoo! for making some bold decisions in an attempt to try and do the “right” thing for the Web. They’ve influenced countless others to follow suit along the way — especially with regards to interoperability, education, and data openness.

    Certainly not three traits for which Microsoft are renowned.

  • phpimpact

    I hope Facebook buys Yahoo! That would be the best thing that could happen to the web.

  • lagoona

    I wish Sitepoint could buy the developer YUI part of Yahoo :)

  • John Munsch

    Amen brother. I couldn’t have said it better myself. YUI needs to be preserved and more than just preserved, encouraged to thrive and do more.

  • http://www.michaeldepetrillo.com klassicd

    Your Google attack is interesting, I would also like to know the reasoning behind leaving out the DOCTYPE. But to call Yahoo the only company you would trust with the future of the web is absurd. Google has done a lot more in terms of opening up via API, releasing open source code, communicating with developers via Google Groups and providing documentation for its Google Code (code.google.com) effort.

  • http://www.mikehealy.com.au cranial-bore

    The answer is clear. Sitepoint must buy Yahoo!
    Wait, maybe I should have left that suggestion for the survey.

    I too worry about what will happen to some of Yahoo’s good work, particularly YUI.

  • http://www.zenscope.com/ amessinger

    YUI is open source, and isn’t going to die. I’m not so sure about the pattern library and other resources, however.

  • winzurf

    Well said Kevin. I have just been working my way through the videos on Javascript etc. from the Yahoo developers and was pretty much committed to using YUI when this announcement came out and put the ‘fear’ into me that I would be going with a dead-end library. The Yahoo guys sure have an open and developer friendly approach which I hope will survive the inevitable changes about to happen.

  • http://m0n5t3r.info/ m0n5t3r

    heh, I wrote a long rant and your blog said it was spam :(
    in the end I was saying I wouldn’t count yui among the good things yahoo did for the web: their new mail interface using it is horribly slow. They did however other cool stuff, like the maps (much more complete than Google’s), the push for REST, etc… I still wouldn’t leave the net neither in their hands, nor in Google’s or, heaven forbid, Microsoft’s; I want it in between, and all of them fight to the death for it, it’s the only way for it to remain free :)

  • Anonymous

    Google dropping the DOCTYPE doesn’t make sense until you think about a few hundred bytes multiplied by billions (trillions?) of page views. That’s a lot of bandwidth…

  • http://www.mikehealy.com.au cranial-bore

    A few hundred bytes multiplied by a billion is NOT much compared to the millions of videos you tube (Google) serves, or the the millions of map tiles Google maps serve, or the millions of images Google Earth serves or the millions of emails and images in people Gmail inboxes or the….

    A Doctype would be totally insignificant for Google. Not to mention the search page is about 6kb, mostly due to CSS in the document, Javascript in the document, font tags, inline Javascript etc. It could be a lot better.

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only reader that finds this rant biased and one-sided. Yahoo! offers a valid contribution to the web community, but to say Google and especially Microsoft don’t contribute countless innovations is just ridiculous.

  • Angajala Kiran Kumar

    Now google search engine is excellent,but yahoo has it own style.Dont compare with these to web developers.They have unique identification.Yahoo took excellent Decision against to Microsoft.

  • NicH

    I also find the Google comment a bit bizarre. What’s got the doctype (or lack of) to do with what they have done for the development community?

    As mentioned above, Google offers many well maintained APIs and has done lots of very useful niche stuff for Open Source projects via Summer of Code, although these might not be as “glamorous” as a spiffy (albeit bloated) JS interface library.

    I also hope Yahoo! doesn’t get aquired by anyone, they’ve done a lot of great stuff over the past few years…but I guess it’s up to the shareholders now…meh….

  • McKenna

    Great timing on this. I actually have $50 billion handy and have been wondering what to do with it.

    In relation to Google not serving a Doctype, I think it’s solely a case of saving the bandwidth that having one there would generate. If you want to make your page as fast as possible, then removing any code that isn’t required for the page to just work is the way to go. Every little bit counts (excuse the pun :P).

  • http://www.mikehealy.com.au cranial-bore

    McKenna – if Google were trying to minimize the size of their code why would they have so much CSS, Javascript and font tags directly in the document source? Most of these things should be in cached external files, and the HTML its self could also be leaner. This would EASILY counteract the extra weight of a Doctype.

  • tfurry

    Kevin, you named the reason why I was troubled by the announcement…I knew something was bothering me about it. I’ve just started working through Yahoo’s dev stuff and incorporating YUI into my applications. I have a strong feeling that developer-oriented openness will get sucked into a black hole if Yahoo is bought by anyone.

    I suppose all things have their day, but it sure seems like in 50 years or so there will only be One World Corporation that owns everything, and everyone will work for them and any fresh ideas will be held captive by IP agreements to be squeezed into whatever profit can be milked from them.

  • http://www.zenscope.com/ amessinger

    tfurry wrote:

    I suppose all things have their day, but it sure seems like in 50 years or so there will only be One World Corporation that owns everything, and everyone will work for them and any fresh ideas will be held captive by IP agreements to be squeezed into whatever profit can be milked from them.

    Interestingly enough, this is one of the core themes of the new Pixar movie WALL-E. At the time the film is set, Earth has been taken over — then abandoned — by a giant corporation named Buy ‘n Large.

    If you search for the name, you’ll find a fake company website that cleverly spoofs corporate control and rampant global consumerism. The site is built entirely in Flash, which just makes it more evil. :-)

  • olkainflex

    The Open Source community could take over all the efforts made uner the YDN umbrela

  • Louistar

    Interestingly, if you do a W3C validation check on yahoo.com, it says “no doctype found”.

  • Anonymous

    My impression exactly. Google came up with a nifty way to do AJAX that only required knowledge of Java and MS wants everything done in .asp and .net. Yahoo is the middle ground and would be a tragic loss.