Yahoo may be outwardly struggling to redefine itself after being eclipsed by Google in search and online ads, but internally the coding and innovation continues apace, according to Bradley Horowitz, vice president of Yahoo's advanced development division.
"We have a very healthy hack program and that spirit has continued even as the company is rethinking its place in the universe and all those metaphysical questions," he said, referring to the promotion of co-founder Jerry Yang to chief executive, replacing Terry Semel, and Yang's promise to review the company's strategy and direction.For instance, Yahoo was set to release new maps and shopping features on Thursday that are a direct result of the company's internal Hack Day in March. The Hack Days are a forum for developers to have unconstrained freedom to experiment with new technologies that may or may not ever become products. Yahoo Messenger Flight Planner and Car Finder are two products born out of Hack Days and there have been dozens of features added to existing products.
One of the new features is called MapMixer. It allows people to overlay a different map on top of a Yahoo Map and share them with others if they like. It's different from regular map mashups, which allow people to overlay data, points of interest and other information direction on top of the map.
With MapMixer, you could combine a map of the University of Berkeley campus on to a Yahoo Map to be able to see richer detail about campus buildings and other attractions, or create a hybrid of a current map and a historical map. You just upload the new map and click on two common points on the maps so that they can align. MapMixer can be found here.
The second new feature from Hack Days is called Shop by Color. Yahoo has created a palette of 56 colors that customers can use when buying on Yahoo Shopping, instead of having to depend on the shades and hues and disparate names that different merchants provide. It will be integrated as part of a "narrow your results" feature in Yahoo Shopping. "You can click on a color and say show me shoes in this color for under $100," Horowitz says. "It's a no-brainer feature and I don't think anyone has applied this technology at this scale; to 10 million products."