February 15, 2006

Yahoo's YUI Goodness

A few days ago, Yahoo released some source code and guidelines for user interface construction and design for the Web. Called YUI (Yahoo UI), its a robust but basic set of cross-platform cross-browser script samples, code libraries for AJAX-y style web applications.

I'm not quite sure what to make of it.

YUI is (at first glance) robust, clean, well thought through - its not perfect or stunning or anything, but it is, most surprisingly, commercially material. Most of the intellectual property that companies tend to release as "open" fall into either the "Look how smart we are/educational" camp - and so are valuable but not usually in a quantifiable commercial way - or into the "Its free [in any and/or all senses], but it furthers our strategic ambitions". Google's really good at the latter, for example - its not that their stuff is not good for developers, its just that its usually (read: almost always) also good for Google.

But that
doesn't appear to be the case with YUI. Its genuinely valuable to developers - educationally, and because it will save man-months and years, and also because it will more easily enable and advance the development of enhanced features and experiences. But I can't really see how it helps Yahoo, even strategically, except in that "Oh, aren't they super-nice?" kind of way.

And I'm torn.

As a consumer and a developer, I'm (more or less) ecstatic. Its basically free money (go
download it now!)- whoo hoo!

As a businessman and coroporate officer (in the broad sense - I'm actually pretty far down in the food chain :)), I have to admit it strikes me as a little irresponsible. Its basically free money - what are they thinking?

OK, I'll admit that I'm not that torn: good job, Yahoo!

They've also released, as I mentioned, what they're calling their Design Patterns Library - a set of UI guidelines for the Web-at-large. I think this is VERY good for end users, but (cynically), I feel that standardization of experience favors the incumbents.


Anonymous said...

I can see why you're saying that Yahoo is acting a bit irresponsibly here. But I would argue that, in a very broad sense, releasing this code does better Yahoo's strategic ambitions, assuming that Yahoo's strategic ambition is to increase profitability. Yahoo has its hand in almost every aspect of the internet, and as a result, Yahoo profits as the usefulness and sophistication of internet applications increase. Internet applications are entering an interesting period in their lifetime in that users now want web pages to feel more cohesive and behave more like desktop applications. If Yahoo can encourage developers to improve the user experience of the web then more users will move away from desktop apps and move towards internet apps. This will directly affect Yahoo's bottom line and satisfy (at least one of) its strategic ambitions.

PS Nice blog

Sree Kotay said...

Yeah, I though about that - but it feels like a bit of a reach, especially with Google, AOL, Microsoft, et al nipping at their heels quite well (in terms of reach and frequency). And I'm not sure that I percieve a big desktop apps vs. web vibe in general - Yahoo makes plenty of desktop apps, too. But I think (total guess :)) its probably more of a "We're cool and OSS and rebel, yo!" desire of some folks who work there - and they're kinda right :)

Anonymous said...

Good objective analysis here Sree :-) I for one am very excited about what Yahoo has put out here. The color picker has a high cool factor to it, even if it's not that performant. It does eclipse most others that are freely available, and the other widgets are not only cool - but useful. These strike me as similar to Macromedia's image rollover code that is in the Dreamweaver library - and consequently on a vast majority of sites that use rollovers. The best question you posed is - how does this benefit Yahoo? For now, the only benefit I see is engendering a good relationship with web developers. Going forward, I can see them building on the connection library to interface with Yahoo's back end. If they can remove a lot of the heavy lifting required to display information sourced from Yahoo on the average Joe's web page - I can a a lot of sites adopting the use of these. Given Yahoo's strategy of buying up "social servers" like Flickr, and - it would make sense if they extended their UI toolkit to not only provide solid functionality - but useful data as well.

Anonymous said...

Basically, the primary value to YAHOO for this library is name recognition: it will directly help recuting software developers.

There may also be behind-the-scenes politics here. Often times developers work for things other than money; YAHOO! might have had to make a concession to keep a few key developers who were otherwise going to leave YAHOO!

Sree Kotay said...

Agreed on both points, which can be (primarily) summarized as: Big company = places to hide :)

Anonymous said...

I think Yahoo! is acctually trying to get them selfs some developer support, the rest of the big 3 are doing it so it only seems logical MS = Atlas (.net ajax framework) , google = Google Web Toolkit (build java ajax apps)

i think its nice they've kept YUI php orientated as the PHP
community hasnt really been targeted but any of the others

Sree Kotay said...

yeah - I'd agree - developers are key to enabling "syndication"; but unlike with the other models (from MS and Google) I don't see any real ties back to Yahoo?

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