Last week, Yahoo! quietly announced a private beta for the new MyBlogLog API. I missed the story till today when I read about it from Marshall Kirkpatrick. Still, even after reading Marshall’s post, the significance of this announcement wasn’t immediately obvious to me. I mistakenly assumed the API would basically provide the same information as the MyBlogLog blog widget, but allow for custom layouts and design. It’s much more than that. It hit me once I saw Kent Brewster’s working demo.
If you have an active profile on MyBlogLog and you visit Kent’s demo page, you’ll probably see yourself in the custom list of recent visitors. You’ll also note that Kent pulled in additional public information from your account setup including any tags associated with your user name, and the third party services that you listed in your profile (ex. Flickr, del.icio.us, Twitter, Netflix, Last.fm, etc). Once Kent knows your identity on one of those third party sites via the API, he can access your publicly available information from the other sites (via the third party site’s API). To demonstrate this, Kent is automatically displaying visitors’ most recent Twitter post. He’s doing that in real-time, on the fly, without requiring visitors to sign-in or provide any information. Think about that for a second.
There are a slew of privacy and terms of service issues to work through on this, but the potential is enormous in my opinion. I’ll give you a couple hypothetical examples. I don’t yet have access to the API, so I’m not sure these examples are technically possible, but I imagine they are or are at least conceptually sound.
Say I build a new music site and I integrate with MyBlogLog. You have never been to my site before, but you have a profile on MyBlogLog and it is linked to your Last.fm music page, which lists the bands you like. Set aside any big brother concerns. The first time you visit my site, MyBlogLog would indicate to me that you are User X on Last.fm. I could query the Last.fm API and grab a list of User X’s favorite artists. Instead of showing you generic content on my site, I could greet you with a customized experience based on your interests from Last.fm. I should even be able to greet you by name, since that information is also accessible through the Last.fm API. I could do all that without you registering on my site or even clicking on anything. Picture the Hype Machine providing a feature like this.
Or, suppose you are Marshall Kirkpatrick and you would like to foster more of a community on the ReadWriteWeb site. You might create a little widget that aggregates popular bookmarks from del.icio.us based on the subset of del.icio.us users who also recently visited ReadWriteWeb. MyBlogLog tells you the users who visited your site and points you to their del.icio.us profile where many people store bookmarks. Marshall could potentially summarize the bookmarks and show a top ten list to his visitors. The effect would be similar to Digg, but based on the community of people who read ReadWriteWeb. Again, no effort is required from the users. Those bookmarks would probably skew tech since ReadWriteWeb is a tech blog. The same feature implemented on a gossip blog like PopSugar might skew more towards lifestyle sites. Who knows, but hopefully you get the idea.
I hope to gain access to the API this week. I find the possibilities really interesting. If the API is what I imagine it is and if Yahoo! can work out the privacy / developer quota / third-party / scalability issues, they may have a sleeper hit on their hands with mashup developers. What do you think? Am I over-speculating?