Yahoo! For Sale: Will Developers Be Left Behind?

    Kevin Yank

    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?