Scoble is disruptive!

Robert Scoble wrote a significant post in his blog yesterday calling on Microsoft and Google to Clone the Google API.

In a nutshell, Robert went to see a Microsoft customer company called Zvents (an online events listing company). When he asked them why they aren’t using Microsoft’s Virtual Earth on their site, (or Yahoo! Maps for that matter) instead of Google Maps, he discovered that:

1) The Yahoo and Virtual Earth licensing terms keep them from putting the map next to a Google advertising component.
2) There’s a perception that Google will treat companies who stick with all of its components better (maybe by giving a discount in the future, maybe by serving out better ads, maybe, by, alas, making both components better through using attention data!
3) They know that putting Google logos on their site is “cooler� and “more buzz generating� than putting Yahoo or Microsoft logos on their site (and they’d be right, heck, I work for Microsoft and I’m talking about their site).

Another example of the licensing restriction is the ip limit Yahoo! imposes on its Map service:

The Yahoo! Maps Embeddedable APIs (the Flash and AJAX APIs are limited to 50,000 queries per IP per day and to non-commercial use.

How narrow-minded is that? As Dave Winer says:

When an application starts getting serious traffic, pick up the phone and let’s figure out how to make some money. High traffic is good news, it’s something to welcome, to encourage, not something to fear!

As a result, Robert called on Microsoft and Yahoo! to clone the Google API – this would require a fundamental mind-shift for Microsoft and Yahoo! and that won’t be easy as evidenced by a comment on Scoble’s post by Jeffrey McManus (Director, Yahoo! Developer Network) where he said:

That’s not how business works. If you want this kind of thing to be free and unlimited, why don’t we start with the phone at your place? Can I declare your home telephone an ‘open standard’ and have all my friends come by and make calls at your expense? Can we order some pizzas on your credit card while we’re at it?

However, despite the initial negative comments from Yahoo!, Ethan Stock, CEO of Zvents is reporting on his blog that:

I just got off the phone with the Yahoo Maps team, and they said that tomorrow they will be removing the “non-commerical only” clause from their TOS, and that Zvents, as a commercial site, is “golden” to start using their APIs.

It is amazing how quickly one post from Scoble can start some disruption – now all we need to see is Microsoft, Scoble’s own employers, follow suit! If they want to stay in Map search, they’ll have to – don’t you just love competition?

4 thoughts on “Scoble is disruptive!”

  1. I’m quite surprised with Scoble on this matter. All his recent posts are about Google and they are rather reactionary and encouraging Microsoft to be the same. They’re quite cringeworthy and embarrassing really. Shouldn’t Microsoft be proactive and not reactive? Cloning the Google API will not get Microsoft anywhere. Offering a better product will. Any API is useless if the product is still a piece of crap.

    Google were first to market with a great search engine which they then opened up in a very limited way. If Yahoo and MSN had an API just like it at the same time, it would still mean nothing. Google was a superior search engine, so much so that the attrition rate to other engines is tiny. Yahoo and MSN started rejigging their technology to be like Google but they haven’t caught up and cloning the Google API will not do one thing to improve it.

    Concentrate on making the core product better, work with the outside developers who see possibilities with your technology that you fail to see. Have an API but it doesn’t need to be a Google clone. Developers are not stupid or so lazy that they won’t switch because accessing your API is slightly different to the Google one. Is it really the API that is holding them back or the fact that Google has a better search engine AND they’ve branded themselves so well that the developers are massive fanboys?

    A campaign that states “Clone the Google API” which is adopted by Microsoft and Yahoo might as well be renamed “We’re happy to be the bottom feeders”

  2. Damien,

    I think you are missing the point – the ‘cloning the API’ bit is not just to copy it but to improve on it – see Dave Winer’s point in the original ‘clone the api‘ post:

    Today, in late 2005, Google is still the leader in search, but either Yahoo or Microsoft, or even better — both — could leapfrog Google by allowing developers to build unlimited applications on their search engine. Or, if unlimited is not possible, make the limit practical for serious Internet applications, perhaps 1 million queries per day? Let’s work this out.

  3. Nope, not missing the point at all. In order to clone the API and improve, they need to use the same tech for allowing people to access their API. Google uses SOAP and Yahoo uses REST, I don’t know what MSN uses. Is Yahoo to drop the current tech behind their API? Seems silly. Dave talks about implementing it so that a simple URL change is all a developer needs to do, which means all the donkey work is then up to the Yahoo and MSN developers to make sure they make their API interface to work with SOAP. Will they now have to break their existing APIs to clone the SOAP API?

    Even if you got around that you have to offer the exact same featureset that Google is offering, possibly features you don’t currently offer and that you would have to create or rejig a lot of the background tech to make it so. Seems like a lot of work to just get more lazy developers to play with your system. As I said, you don’t need a standard API for interfacing with all the search engines, you just need an API with good documentation and that allows you to do whatever you want.

    Do you really want lazy developers to use your API or damned clever developers? I’d prefer the ones who have the cop-on to use your API even if it does not look just like the Google one.

    Anyways, a recent post from Jeremy shows the diff in traffic between Google and the competition on his website. That’s staggering and it has zero to do with APIs and I very much doubt this will change no matter how alike the APIs are to Google.

    Speaking of Jeremy, I like this reply to Scoble

    What MSN and Yahoo should do is make more open and powerful APIs and also develop freely available scripts for developers that will allow them to use the APIs. Still I think at the end of the day it is about offering better search engines and surrounding tech then having an API mimic Google.

  4. Damien,

    I think you are getting too hung up on the tech – what Scoble was saying is that Google are getting more users to use their Ad platform and their mapping service because they are more open in their terms and conditions (for instance, the Yahoo Maps and Virtual Earth licensing terms keep them from putting their maps next to a Google advertising component!).

    In his conclusion, he says:

    So, what can we do to disrupt Google?

    Clone the Google API!

    Make it possible to take the Google map out of that page and put in a Microsoft or Yahoo one (and keep it next to a Google AdSense bar). That will require telling the bean counters to sit down and be quiet. That won’t be easy. Like I said, they run the world, and we are rapacious, greedy, businesspeople who don’t like to share a service that costs tens of millions of dollars). Google knows this and is laughing all the way to the bank.

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