What Will Become of Yahoo’s Development Projects?

By Craig Buckler
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Yahoo DevelopmentDespite Yahoo’s recent profitability problems, the company has continued to invest in several innovative and technically-stunning projects. These include:

SearchMonkey: a system that allows site owners to publish structured data that provides more useful and visually appealing results within the Yahoo search engine.

BOSS (Build your Own Search Service): a platform that allows products to utilize the Yahoo search index.

YUI (Yahoo User Interface Library): an ambitious JavaScript library for building rich, interactive web applications.

YQL (Yahoo Query Language): a SQL-like language that abstracts the whole web so it appears to be an enormous database!

Yahoo Pipes: a visual content mash-up system.

Yahoo provides the services for free and many companies have adopted the technologies for their own web sites and systems. However, what will become of these projects if the Microsoft-Yahoo deal proceeds as planned? Under the terms of that agreement, Microsoft will become the sole technical systems developer for both companies.

The deal has an immediate impact on SearchMonkey and BOSS, but other projects will almost certainly be affected. Yahoo have already announced that using Bing will save them around $200 million in annual expenditure. I’m sure that figure includes administration and marketing costs, but it would also pay the salaries of a few thousand developers. It’s possible Microsoft will integrate Yahoo’s systems with Bing, but is there a justifiable financial or competitive advantage for doing so?

According to the blogs of Chris Yeh, Head of the Yahoo Developer Network, and Ashim Chhabra of the BOSS team, there will be no immediate changes and they are still absorbing the implications of the deal. However, there are rumors that the morale at Yahoo is flagging.

Does the Microsoft-Yahoo deal spell the beginning of the end for Yahoo development projects? The outlook does not look good.

Related reading: Bing Boosted by Microsoft and Yahoo Deal.

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  • Dave Lyon

    It seems to me that depending on the terms of the deal, the first two projects you list might survive but using results from Bing.

    The other projects though have everything to do with Yahoo’s content network which is what they say they’ll be able to focus on now, so I don’t see those dying on the vine- they’ll be more necessary than ever.

  • I heard on TWiT (ep. 205 or 206) that Microsoft plans to continue working on BOSS. MS seems to be very excited about that project.

  • Yahoo has dome some amazing stuff in the web dev department. It’s open, free and quite good. That’s what worries me about MS getting a hold of it, they seldom support any of those qualities ;)

  • seriously people

    $200 million in annual expenditure. I’m sure that figure includes administration and marketing costs, but it would also pay the salaries of a few thousand developers.

    Let’s see, 2,000 developers times a median salary of $100,000 (that’s being modest considering these are top-of-their-game search developers) comes to 200 million alone. So let’s say that the median is only 70,000 – so they’ve only got 70 million to cover the non-developer-salary of their entire search operation?

    Do you guys always just make numbers up?

    YUI and Pipes aren’t going anywhere, they are totally agnostic services. If you think YUI is going away then where is your article about how Yahoo will just declare bankruptcy because they are only getting 88% of ad revenue from Bing and that must mean some stupid bullshit you are conjured up because you need to hit your blogging quota.

  • Frost

    It will be interesting what they will do with the YUI JavaScript library, as Micorsoft will be shipping Visual Studio with jQuery

  • And will Google keep hosting YUI? ;) Even if new work on these projects dried up it would be nice if they don’t move all the documentation into MSDN, ugh.

  • Anonymous

    i hate ms,i love yahoo

  • @seriously people
    I’m not sure what point you’re making. Yahoo have stated that $200 million will be saved in search engine DEVELOPMENT costs. Your own assumptions estimate 2,000 developers could be affected – if not more.

    The deal makes Yahoo a ‘marketing’ company and they will drop core development projects. They will not need as many employees and MS have already announced that they will hire 400 ex-Yahoo developers. Losing that knowledge and experience will almost certainly have a knock-on effect on other Yahoo projects.

    I hope MS take some projects on, but previous history does not bode well — especially when Yahoo uses non-MS technology (such as PHP) and MS has invested in competing projects.

    If you were a developer at Yahoo, how do you think the MS deal would affect your career? Would you be concerned?

  • still seriously

    My point was to illustrate that your 2,000 developer figure was completely made-up, and it is. Do you even know what 2,000 people looks like? Have you seen an office with 2,000 people before?

    As far as YUI is concerned, Yahoo still has a very large business centered around syndicated content, mail services, and other non-search services, all of which require a generous amount of front-end development and maintenance. Do you think that because the search developers down in the bat-cave are taking a hike that YUI will just evaporate into thin air?

    Your point about Yahoo developers being worried about their *jobs* is legitimate, but that’s the same point that everyone including the TV news networks have already made. It’s your responsibility to provide some insight instead of embellishing the point with made-up figures and some what-if scenarios that have no base in reality.

  • Nate Koechley

    I don’t think you’re accurate when you write that “Under the terms of that agreement, Microsoft will become the sole technical systems developer for both companies.” As far as I know, that’s not true. Happen to have a citation or basis for that statement?

    Yes, MS will provide the technical search platform, but search is only a small bit of the “technical systems” at Yahoo. From my perspective (as an outsider these days), the future of YUI is strong and is not impacted by the search-specific deal.

    I agree with @still seriously above in that Yahoo is still a heavy-hitter in frontend/ui development, and that’s not changing any time soon. If anything, they’ll be doubling-down.

  • @still seriously and Nate Koechley
    Er, SS, you made up the 2,000 figure?!? However, Yahoo’s $200 million of development savings has to come from somewhere – and it’s not from PCs and paper-clips. The company is switching emphasis to marketing and MS will provide the search and advertising systems technology. Developers will be affected and 400 of them are already off to MS.

    It is naive to think that ejecting a sub-set developers will not have an effect on other projects. Developers move between projects and become gurus or mentors for others. Even if that were not the case, developers with ‘safe’ jobs will be considering their future at Yahoo.

    Will YUI be affected? Absolutely. Yahoo needs to remain profitable; from a cold-hearted business perspective, YUI could be dropped and replaced with another open-source JS library. I hope that doesn’t happen, but only time (and possibly the regulators) will tell the impact and extent of the deal.

  • still seriously

    So what you are saying is: it is cheaper for yahoo to abandon YUI and completely retool their massive site for an open source javascript library instead of

    1) Continuing development on YUI which probably only takes up the time of half a dozen to a dozen JS developers in the worst case scenario.


    2) Making YUI open source and keeping 2 or 3 guys on hand to manage the repository?

  • I’m not saying anything … you are!

    Only Yahoo knows how much it costs to develop, support, and use YUI and all their other projects. They’ll examine everything from a renewed business perspective now they’re switching focus away from search development. Technically-brilliant projects aren’t necessarily profitable projects.

    I hope they keep developing YUI and I’m sure you do too (are you using it?) It must be great to have blind faith in the company, but Yahoo are in unknown territory. Wouldn’t you be a little concerned if you were about to start a big YUI-based project?

  • pfitz

    YUI will be fine as long as it doesn’t officially become Microsoft’s property. If the guys at Yahoo get to decide it’s fate it will simply go open source where there are 1000s of developers (and companies) with an interest in keeping YUI developed.

    It’s kind of funny though, how developers are scared of Microsoft getting more market share because we assume they will screw things up. Especially when you consider their ‘developers, developers, developers’ mantra.

  • I don’t know, I’m sure some projects will be shelved but new ones will probably begin as well. So I’m sure the developers will still have plenty of work to do.

  • I really think it depends on how Yahoo position themselves over the next couple of years. There’s no reason why they couldn’t give all the coding effort to MS. MS may even add more resources and better facilities. However, they are far more profit-orientated than Yahoo, so the projects would need to pay for themselves to survive.