Yahoo! APIs ‘could reduce peanut butter effect’

Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License. Please give credit as James Duncan Davidson/O'Reilly Media.

Gifting its underlying infrastructure to web users could help focus a flailing Yahoo!, according to one of the portal’s lead developers.

According to an internal memo, aimed at counteracting its listing fortunes but leaked this weekend, company senior vice president Brad Garlinghouse likened the search giant’s one-stop shop approach to “peanut butter” – “a thin layer of investment spread across everything we do and thus we focus on nothing in particular”.

Adding his weight to the swirl of opinions over the company’s future, Jeremy Zawodny, an engineer in its search division who is considered amongst its technical gurus, said APIs (application programming interfaces) could spread Yahoo! to the farthest corners of the net whilst retaining its place at the heart of user’s online lives.

“If part of Yahoo!’s problem is that it tries to be everything to everyone (and it is), then APIs are part of the sollution,” Zawodny wrote. “By offering up web services that encapsulate the core things we’re really good at, we’d be able to stop trying to be everything to everyone.

“Why? Because others would have the raw materials needed to come in and fill the gaps – or the ‘long tail’, if you prefer. We’d be part of the solution without necessarily having to do all the work.”

Publishing APIs exposes underlying company technology to external developers, allowing them to create piggyback services that owe their existence to the original data. Yahoo! already publishes APIs for its Answers, Local, Maps, Photos, Search, Shopping, Travel and Utilities sites amongst its range of developer tools.

Yahoo!’s share price has fallen 32% this year and closed down 19 cents at $26.72 on Monday, despite earlier delight at the prospect of integrating acquisitions like Flickr and for the social media future.

Zawodny added: “Brad is very right about some things and terribly wrong about others”.