Yahoo! Mobile 3.0 Thoughts


I like it!

Yep, my previous employer did good. Since I had nothing whatsoever to do with this product, I feel quite comfortable telling you my opinions on it, but since I generally like what they've done that's not actually a burden. I had to wait a few days to actually see the new web home page which is now live on, but I just checked it out now and it's very nice.

First, I'll say again, I don't like mobile widgets. Getting people to install and use one app is hard enough, getting them to install the widget runner and *then* install widgets on top of it is just targeting a niche within a niche. Considering the billions of mobile phones out there and the hundreds of millions of mobile web users, and the fact that the most popular mobile application by far - Opera mini - has only had 20MM or so downloads, I feel quite justified in my opinion.

That said, the few companies that can get away with a Widget platform are the ones where it serves as an "affinity" play, so that a site's most dedicated customers have the most compelling and efficient mobile access to their favorite services. Yahoo! is one of those companies, so this works for them. If you're some random Mobile widget provider out there hoping to bank on the wild success of your platform, you need to give it up, but if you're Yahoo! it makes perfect sense to promote some sort of specialized client. As long as the expectations - both internal and external - is that mobile widgets are not going to generate massive amounts of users or revenue, but instead provide tools for the most valuable users to keep them coming back.

But beyond my tepid acceptance of the Yahoo! Go Widget client is my enthusiasm for the way the apps have been implemented on the server. They've based their widget platform on basic markup - a new XML dialect based on xForms but with no JavaScript - so the same app that runs in the Go! client will also work on the new Yahoo! Mobile Homepage (where they're called "snippets" for some reason). You can even use basic RSS as the markup for your snippets as well - making your mobile homepage into a mini My Yahoo! or Netvibes mobile.

This is really where I think Y! will see the most success. Similar to the way Facebook or OpenSocial apps are created and used, Yahoo has made a mobile web platform for third party apps, allowing deveopers to create cool functionality, and yet driving mobile users back to the Y! home page. It's a great plan that's good for users (more functionality), the mobile web in general (more users driven to use their browsers) and for Yahoo! (more users signing up for IDs).

Google has had functionality on their mobile home page that's similar to this for a while, but like many of the GOOG's offerings, it's not nearly as well thought out or implemented - you can't add new gadgets via a phone, for example, and you're not sure which of their Gadgets you add will actually show up on your mobile page, and then many times you're forced to navigate several pages into the home page to even see the widget you've added. Yahoo's solution is much more holistic and geared towards actual mobile phone users.

You can check out their roadmap for Blueprint here where they talk about next versions to come with more functionality and eye candy, but I think that the way it's implemented right now will serve them well for a good long while.

(Note to Yahoo!: All those cool snippets and feeds are going to probably include external links to content at some point, and you'll need a decent content adaption engine to help your mobile users view that content. I happen to know of really good one... You've got my number. :-) )

Now where I think Yahoo! should go from here is not to "improve" the Blueprint language to add more flash, eye-candy and scripting - as that will simply make it less broadly compatible and decrease its utility, rather than adding to it - but instead to do two things:

1) Enable users to share their setup: If I've taken the time to create a cool-ass Y! home page with a great mix of snippets, I should be able to send that set up to a friend so they can add it to their Yahoo! mobile homepage with one click. Don't under-estimate the power of the "over the shoulder" viralness of mobile apps. "Hey, how did you do that on your phone? - Oh, you like it? Here, let me send you my homepage..."

2) Enable external sites to use Snippets too! I'd love to enable users to be able to view Yahoo! powered snippets on our home page. There's *no* eco-system in mobile right now, so getting third party mobile sites to promote the concept of Snippets and driving users to sign up for Yahoo! Mobile services (where the gallery of Widgets/Snippets is kept) would be a good thing for everyone.

Very cool stuff... Now these guys need to get off their ass and open up the gallery/submittal process etc. so I can whip up some neat Mowser based widgets to add.



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