Yahoo has launched a new beta version of its instant messenger suite, dubbed “Yahoo Messenger with Voice” to promote the built-in VoIP capability. But VoIP is old news; this release is notable for the new plugin feature, supported by an open API. Here’s what the developer site says about the new API:
It looks like the plugins will basically run as miniature Web pages, rendered inside the IM client itself (main window or active conversations), or in attached minibrowsers. It should be easy enough to implement any Web service you can envision, with a decent choice of languages; the challenge will be to design your plugin content to look good in a small space. Maybe it’s time for my own pet project to make an appearance here…
User-developed plugins can be published through Yahoo’s Gallery site, making them available in a few clicks from the messenger application itself. I can’t say I like the navigational system much, as you have to resort to an advanced search that doesn’t work all that well, unless you enjoy wading through pages of plugins in Chinese and German, five at a time. But it’s all beta, and there’s clearly room for improvement here. The range of apps available at launch is impressive but not mindblowing, and includes tools for monitoring sites like eBay, Jeteye, Coupons.com, and NewsGator alongside internal Yahoo favorites like the mail, finance, and calendar sites.
In time-honored Yahoo tradition, the users are expected to do the heavy lifting of adding new and hopefully exciting features to the company’s products—not that there’s anything wrong with that. Indeed, ’tis better to whip up your own quickie plugin rather than put in a feature request and hold your breath. And a few other improvements made their way into this release as well: add up to 1,000 contacts per account, transfer files as large as 1GB rather than 100MB, and include annoying little sound effects in your IM messages. There better be a way to turn that last feature off.</old fogie>
All in all, it looks like Yahoo is trying hard to appeal to the MySpace generation that wants to customize and interconnect everything they see. On that level, the plugin interface should be very successful.