Yahoo Maps API — you can pass it a street address, in addition to a lat/long pair

Yahoo Launches My Web 2.0

In the next evolution of search engines, Google and Yahoo both announced new versions of their personalized search efforts. Google launched their personalized search. And moments ago, Yahoo launched My Web 2.0 (screenshot). Caterina announced it first on Flickr.

I was invited to a private demo of My Web 2.0 at the Yahoo campus a couple weeks ago, and I’ve been beta-testing since then. Aside from the awkward name, I’m impressed. At the very least, it blows Google’s offering out of the water, and follows in a recent trend of Yahoo’s smart moves and acquisitions.

My initial impression was that it was, depressingly, a Del.icio.us killer. (I later changed my mind; more on that later.) It lets you share bookmarks with a clean interface, and it supports tagging and annotation, RSS feeds, and an open API. But My Web 2.0 improves on other social bookmarking services in two very important ways:

1. Social networking. With My Web 2.0, you can decide to share individual bookmarks with the world, limit them to only your social network, or keep them private. The application of this is in browsing and searching pages that your friends (and their friends) bookmarked. If you’re looking for a restaurant recommendation or product review, for example, their bookmarking history and annotations are very useful input. If your friends actually use it, this becomes an essential way to search the web.

2. Search. Because Yahoo’s indexed nearly every webpage you can bookmark, users are able to search the full-text of every webpage they’ve ever indexed, instead of just the bookmark name, description and URL.

After mulling it over, I don’t think that My Web 2.0 and sites like Del.icio.us are mutually exclusive. Because they both have open APIs, it’s very possible to export your Del.icio.us bookmarks to My Web 2.0 for searching functionality or use a third-party service that posts to both. More importantly, they feel different and will likely be used for different purposes. Matt has some thoughts on what makes each unique.

And because it’s Yahoo, their massive user base potentially translates into a huge network effect. As more people use the service, the more invaluable it becomes for everyone.

The first post to their new blog has a brief To-Do list of upcoming features, but it doesn’t mention the three important items that were raised during the beta testing. First, tagging, saving, and annotating bookmarks should all be done inline within search results. The popup windows stink. Second, there should be no distinction between Yahoo’s normal search and My Web 2.0 search. It should simply be “Search.” Finally, using the social network tools should require only the bare minimum of interaction with Yahoo 360. 360 is too bulky for something as simple as managing a contact list.

These issues aside, Phil brought up the issue of context. Does bookmarking make sense in the context of searching the entire web? Does your social network have enough breadth to make a dent in normal search queries? Maybe not, and if casual web users don’t see the immediate benefit to themselves, they may never start to participate. If so, the network effect may never materialize. We’ll see.

For Yahoo and Google, the benefits are clear. By collecting aggregate information about bookmarked sites, they’ll be able to increase the relevancy of their search results and marginally combat the spam problem. And if their users get hooked on social bookmarks, they’ll be locked in forever.

Update: Yahoo’s announcement. Also, commentary by Ross Mayfield, Matt Haughey, Jeremy Zawodny.

Wikipedia History Contest Winners

Two weeks ago, I summoned the Lazyweb for a way to automatically generate a slideshow of Wikipedia revision history. I wanted it so badly, I offered $50. Other people felt the same and kicked in an additional $200 (among other nice prizes)!

Four outstanding entries were entered: Dan Phiffer’s Wikipedia Animate, Corey’s WikiDiff, John Resig’s AniWiki and Colin Hill’s BetterHistory.

The winner? Dan Phiffer’s Wikipedia Animate. (If you haven’t used it, watch Jon Udell’s brief screencast to see it in action.)

Although John Resig’s AniWiki entry had several innovations, Dan wins because of the elegant Wikipedia integration and the ease of use. Dan’s entry was the first to use a slider for navigation, allowing you to scrub across revisions with changes reflected in real-time, and I like the ability to switch between selected arbitrary ranges using the existing Wikipedia buttons or the entire revision history. It looks like a seamless part of Wikipedia. He’ll receive $200, one Flickr Pro account, a $20 Threadless gift certificate, and the Socialtext Starter package.

Second place goes to John Resig’s innovative AniWiki. Although I didn’t like the slideshow navigation as much, I was blown away by his graphical chart of activity over time and the visual diffs written entirely in Javascript. (Dan Phiffer later incorporated John’s Javascript diff algorithm into his own code.) For his excellent work, John will receive $50 and a Flickr Pro account.

These scripts raise an interesting question about the ethics and etiquette of user scripts, since they all generate multiple page requests to Wikipedia. There was some debate about this on the Greasemonkey discussion list.

I think Dan’s entry was an excellent compromise, as the only one that doesn’t automatically load any extra pages without explicit user action (i.e. clicking a button). Not to pick on Corey’s otherwise excellent entry, but the Greasemonkey script loaded (at least) 30 revisions in the background when viewing every Wikipedia entry, whether you wanted the history or not. No matter what the solution, anyone animating the history of a wiki entry with hundreds (or thousands) of revisions could seriously impact the server’s performance. What’s great for users isn’t always great for the website creator.

Anyway, thanks to everyone for participating. Go, Lazyweb!