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BLOG: Yahoo sacrifices AltaVista in YQL-centric mobile play

Ted Samson | July 2, 2013
Yahoo has added several more products to the chopping block, including APIs in favor of its homegrown SQL-like language.

Yahoo sacrifices AltaVista in YQL-centric mobile play

You may not have noticed, but Yahoo is really and truly evolving with Marissa Mayer at the helm. As it's been buying up companies left and right — including TumblrRondeeLoki, and others — it's also been shedding dead weight. Last Friday, in fact, the company revealed it will be pulling the plug on its venerable AltaVista search, WebPlayer, Yahoo RSS Alerts, and other apps — and a couple of APIs, in favor of the YQL (Yahoo Query Language).

These acquisitions and cuts all point to Mayer guiding Yahoo toward becoming a next-gen mobile company, one that delivers "visual, rich" content and services via smartphones, tablets, wearables, and beyond. "We have the content. We have all of the information that people want on their phones," she said in her first public interview since becoming CEO. "Now it's about making it easy and relevant to use on mobile."

The process of becoming a lean, mean, mobile-focused machine entails dumping old technologies that don't serve that vision, and Yahoo's been doing just that. In April, the company announced that, in the name of "sharpening [its] focus" it was shutting down Yahoo Avatars, the Yahoo Message Boards website, Yahoo App Search, and other products. In March, the companyrevealed it was pulling the plug on products like Yahoo SMS Alerts, as well as Yahoo Mail and Messenger J2ME apps for feature phones.

Good-bye APIs, hello YQL?
The most recent round of announced cuts stand out, however, in that they don't just include products that won't be missed by any but the most nostalgic of Internet denizens (when's the last time you AltaVistaed anything?). There are a couple of APIs on the list with entirely different fates: The Yahoo Local API is being outright eliminated come Sept. 30. By contrast, the company is eliminating direct access to the Yahoo Term Extraction API; existing users who still want the functionality will need to migrate to YQL requests by Sept. 28.

YQL is Yahoo's SQL-like query language designed to retrieve and manipulate data from APIs through a Web interface, allowing developers to create apps using mashups. Yahoo launched YQL as part of its Developer Network in 2008. Since then, the company added open tables from third parties, as well as a capability to execute YQL-built tables of data using JavaScript.

"The Yahoo Query Language lets you query, filter, and join data across any Web data source or service on the Web. Using our YQL Web service, apps run faster with fewer lines of code and a smaller network footprint," wrote YQL Lead Jonathan Trevor back in 2009. "YQL treats the entire Web as a source of table data, enabling developers to select * from Internet."


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