Home Yahoo Launches 2 New Hacks – Interview with Bradley Horowitz from Yahoo

Yahoo Launches 2 New Hacks – Interview with Bradley Horowitz from Yahoo

This evening Yahoo! is announcing two new ‘hacks’ that have been in development since late March. While it is tempting to write them off as two small features being incorporated into the largest Internet Property in the world, we wonder if there is more meaning here – especially given that Jerry Yang announced a 100 day strategy refresh back in July.

This week I sat down with Bradley Horowitz, VP of Yahoo’s Advanced Development Division, to discuss both hacks that are launching tonight. You can listen to the full interview on Read/WriteTalk. As we talked, it became apparent that Horowitz was trying to make these hacks more symbolic. Specifically he commented:

“And even at this time, when the media has widely reported struggles and the internal challenges we have at Yahoo, the Hack spirit is very much alive. And I’m really happy to be sharing with you today a couple of innovations that I think are representative of the kind of things that we see coming out in Hack on a continual basis.”

With this in mind, it is worth taking a close look at both of the ‘hacks’ that are launching tonight.

Map Mixer

The first hack decribed by Bradley was MapMixer. It allows users to morph a Yahoo! Map with another image of theirs, to create a hybrid map. The example provided by Bradley was integrating images from Berkeley Website with a Yahoo Map of the area. See the image below for an example of how that would look:

The most challenging part of the process is actually matching the two images together. The user simply finds a couple intersection points on both the map and his/her image and then the system automatically morphs them together. In our interview, Bradley explained the process as being “like a big sheet of rubber, the map is kind of stretched and rotated, and then applied to the Yahoo Map.”

Shop by Color

The second hack launching tonight is Shop by Color. This is actually being integrated into Yahoo! Shopping as one of the mechanisms to narrow search results when looking for a product. Historically you’ve been able to filter results by: price, style, gender, and brand. With the introduction of this new feature, shoppers will also be able to filter based on 56 different color hues.

The most challenging part of this process, according to Bradley, was simply making this work both at the scale of the Yahoo Shopping Index (10 million objects indexed) and also ensuring a user experience that is consistent with expectations. This was done both via statistical analysis against the corpus and user experience testing.

The screen shot below shows the user filtering down their results for only blue results of dresses in this case:


So will this be announced as part of Yahoo’s new strategy? At a minimum, as we discussed last week, one of the trends on the web moving forward will clearly be “moving from websites to web services.” I should also point out that this is nothing new from Bradley – in fact Richard interviewed him and Caterina Fake at Supernova 2006 and Bradley was talking about the importance of building on top of Yahoo’s open platform back then.

When trying to figure out how this fits into the ‘100 Day Strategy’, the most important question probably is how they will evaluate the success of both these launches. And by extension evaluate the success of future launches. To this end, I asked Bradley about Yahoo’s expectations for both these launches and he responded:

“I think one of the great things about Yahoo, and the great things about this program is that our expectation is that we put them out there and we learn.

We might learn that users love it, and we’ll continue to double down and invest resources and kind of make it increasingly great. Or we might find it doesn’t resonate with users and that the resource is best put elsewhere. So kind of putting them out there in beta, and being good listeners, and watching what happens next especially with something like Maps which is contingent upon the uptake in the community.”

What do you think? Will Yahoo! incorporate this ‘hack ethic’ as part of their strategy moving forward? If so, how do they communicate this to their different constituents (Wall St, etc)?

Big Company Hacks at Yahoo, R/WW March 2007
Yahoo Mail API Launched, R/WW March 2007

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