YDN Supports JSON

The Yahoo Developer Network just added JSON support for various APIs, as well as a Javascript Developer Center. Interesting side note: I just learned that the author of JSON, Douglas Crockford, works for Yahoo. He must be a modest guy because his name doesn’t show up on (which he runs) or the Wikipedia entry for JSON. And check this out, the (free) JSON license says “The Software shall be used for Good, not Evil”.


Konfabulator 3.0 Goodness

There’s a new version of Konfabulator, now called Yahoo! Widgets, available at Since Konfabulator became part of Yahoo! in August, we’ve seen some pretty amazing usage numbers (all of it organic – there has been no promotion or marketing):

  • 1.5 million downloads of Konfabulator/Yahoo! Widget Engine (not surprisingly, almost 90% of that is on Windows, the rest on Mac)
  • 10 million widgets downloaded from the Widget Gallery (
  • 50-100 widgets submitted by developers to the gallery every week (there are over 2,000 widgets in the gallery now!)

And here are the goodies in the latest version of Yahoo! Widgets:

5 new widgets from Yahoo:

  • Search widget (see above): this brand new widget is a search box that sits on your desktop (nice and small when you don’t need it), let’s you search the web, images, news, videos, etc and maximizes and minimizes beautifully to show you the results. I think I’ll be using this a lot as a way to do quick searches without opening a browser window.
  • Maps widget: the Maps widget gives you fast access to Yahoo Maps right from the desktop, like the Search widget it stays out of the way when you don’t need it and opens up to reveal more functionality when it springs into action. Very pretty and useful. I’m impressed by how quickly the maps load and scroll around when you drag them.
  • Notepad widget: this one is funny and it will be interesting to see how many people use it: you can jot down notes and they get saved to your online Yahoo Notepad (so you can get to your notes from any PC/browser), you can also blast/blog the notes to your 360 blog. I wonder if developers will find some cool ways to use the underlying functionality of storing and retrieving little bits of text for a user.
  • Contacts widget: quick access to your Yahoo address book from the desktop. Perfect for looking up a quick address or birthday.
  • Mail Checker: a simple little widget that tells you when new mail arrives in your Yahoo Mail account.

4 improved widgets from Yahoo:

  • Picture frame: my favorite widget (along with the weather widget) got even better: in addition to viewing photos from my desktop I can now see photos from Flickr and Yahoo Photos, the widget also acts as an upload tool for Flickr/Y Photos and lets me edit tags and other data in my online photos.
  • Day planner: fka PIM overview, I have not spent a ton of time with this guy but it’s basically a calendar widget that can now talk to/synch with Yahoo Calendar, Outlook or iCal.
  • Weather and stock ticker: a few little tweaks to these widgets to make them easier to use (for example the dialog to add a new stock symbol is a lot more slick now).

New features for widget developers:

  • Yahoo login: you can now build widgets that use Yahoo login and tap into a user’s photo albums, calendar, notepad, etc
  • Frames/subviews and scrollbars: widgets can now have subviews with scroll bars to show data that doesn’t all fit on the surface of the widget (the new Yahoo Search widget pictured above uses this feature)
  • XML parsing/DOM Level 1 support with XPath 1.0, plus support for XMLHttpRequest – yay!
  • Lots of other stuff like text area focus improvements, asynchronous image fetching, and as always lots of bug fixes

Also new:

  • Security: users are now asked to confirm that they want to run a widget the first time they start it up (this goes for any widget that did not come directly from Yahoo and is designed to prevent widgets from running without the user’s knowledge or consent)


PS: Now that widgets can access personal user data such as Yahoo photo albums, calendars and address books it is possible for any developer to look at our new widgets and figure out how to tap into that data as well. However, please note that the calendar/address book/etc APIs that we’re using in these new widgets are not officially supported through the Yahoo Developer Network, so proceed at your own risk (or wait for the official APIs to come out).


Two Cool Mashups

Two fun mashups I’ve recently come across: Find Lawton and Angie and Derek’s Videos. Both are simple and compelling examples of how online maps make for a surprisingly good UI into various bits of data.


Feed sharing

J Wynia has created an “OPML sampler“. It creates a nice summary view of someone’s list of RSS subscriptions. Here’s an example. This feels like a great basis for letting people share their RSS subcription lists. Instead of today’s process of having to import someone’s OPML file, subscribe to all their feeds, read the feeds and unsubscribe from the ones I don’t like, I’d like to be able to view a Wynia style summary view of someone’s OPML file and click to subscribe to the ones that look interesting.


A Digital Gap

Recently, I’ve been noticing people say things like “MySpace is just for kids – over 30 year olds will never use it” or “I still don’t get SMS, why would anyone SMS when you can just send email?”. It’s usually 35+ year olds who say those things. What struck me the other day is how they sound just like my parents who said things like “I don’t need a PC and I don’t understand why I’d ever use one”. Back then, we started seeing a gap open up between analog and digital generations. The young generation embraced PCs, the old generation tried to avoid them and stick to their tried and true ways. Now we are seeing a gap appear between the first and second digital generations. The PC generation is holding on to their PC worldview and feels that the emerging always-on, always-connected world of social networks and mobile devices is somehow annoying, superfluous or dangerous. Meanwhile, the next generation – the connected generation? – is embracing the idea of being constantly connected, their digital devices and personas are a natural part of their lives and technology is the primary means of connecting with friends.


The Center of Silicon Valley

In honor of tonight’s Yahoo Maps beta and Yahoo Maps API releases, I made a little maps mashup. Sometimes when people visit Silicon Valley, they wonder where it actually is. There is no discernible center to the Valley and you might find yourself passing through it without ever realizing you did. So I set out to find the center via Yahoo Maps. I took the 10 most valuable Silicon Valley tech companies, plotted their locations and then computed their average location weighted by today’s stock market valuation for each company. The result is here.

Here’s what’s weird about it: the center of Silicon Valley came out to be exactly at the intersection of two major highways – 101 and 237. How poetic, in a place that cares mostly about bits and bytes the centerpoint is a freeway on-ramp 🙂



BTW, Chris Law did a podcast with me last week. You can find it here.

Technology VCs

Are Companies Really Getting Cheaper to Build?

Today’s Wall Street Journal says “Many Internet Start-Ups Are Telling Venture Capitalists: ‘We Don’t Need You'” (subscription required).

The article talks about a theme that’s been discussed in Silicon Valley for a while: “It’s a scenario playing out all over Silicon Valley — and one with potentially big ramifications for venture capitalists. A new generation of Internet companies — many offering online photo and blogging services or downloadable software for businesses — have been built for a fraction of the cost just a few years ago. That’s mainly due to the increasing popularity of cheap “open source” software and programming tools, as well as dramatic cost reductions in computer memory, storage and Internet bandwidth.”

I agree with this, but only to a certain point. Yes, it’s gotten cheaper to get an internet company off the ground, to get to a prototype or even beta stage with very little money. However, a couple of things haven’t changed:

1. Prototypes take a couple of months, but solid, scalable, feature rich software takes at least a year to build (often longer).

2. Even with a great product, it takes at least another year to reach a critical size audience and customers.

This means that even with free software, servers and bandwidth, you will need people to work for free for 2+ years if you want to start a company without VC money. Those people will need to be very smart and at the top of their field in order to succeed in the competitive internet software field, and most of them can’t go without a salary for 2 years. And yes, you can outsource some work, but the core design and scaling of your software as well as the critical distribution partnerships that will grow your audience can’t be outsourced. Finally, in addition to salary costs, distribution costs will be rising again as the competition for finite internet audiences heats up.

All in all, I agree it’s cheaper today to get a company to a beta stage where it can be sold to someone looking for a smart team with interesting technology, but to build a sustainable company will still require venture capital for the foreseeable future.