Yahoo: Open or Closed?


Jeremy Zawodny gave a great keynote address at OSCON about how Yahoo is committed to becoming more open -- a sentiment reinforced by a recent blog entry in which he pointed out that Yahoo is working to break down the walls between Yahoo and the rest of the Net by including more content that is not hosted by Yahoo.

That may be true of content, but what about communication? Yahoo Mail users can send emails to people at any domain on the Internet, but when it comes to instant messaging (plus voice and video) the walls are still as strong and thick as ever.

Now Google has handed Yahoo an opportunity to join an open communications network by federating its IM/VoIP service with Google Talk, EarthLink's Vling, SIPphone's Gizmo Project and after that perhaps large XMPP-based services such as those offered by BellSouth,, Orange, Portugal Telecom, Sapo, and so on. Yahoo's Russell Beattie loves Jabber and thinks it would be a great thing if Yahoo joins the emerging open communications network. It seems to me that it's only a matter of time before Yahoo goes open. So why not get out in front on interoperability rather than being dragged kicking and screaming into the brave new world of open communications? Nothing says that Yahoo Messenger would need to change at all to interoperate with Google Talk or other services, since Yahoo could talk XMPP for server-to-server communications while retaining its own protocols internally. (Although in the long term they'd probably want to refactor Yahoo Messenger to support the emerging technology consensus of XMPP for messaging and presence plus SIP -- or the XMPP TINS extension gatewayed to SIP -- for voice/video negotiation and RTP for the multimedia transport.)

Yahoo has a lot to gain from joining the coming open communications network, but the choice is theirs: to federate or not to federate, to be open or closed, to break down the walls or build them up. Jeremy says: "The Internet is a better place when we knock down those walls -- not build them." I couldn't agree more.

Peter Saint-Andre > Journal