The ‘Mobile-First’ Yahoo: 575 Million Users and a New Suite of Dev Tools

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer gives the keynote address at her company's mobile developer conference in San Francisco, CA in 2016. Photo credit: Ken Yeung

Yahoo has doubled down on its investment in the mobile space, with CEO Marissa Mayer putting her proverbial stake in the ground and declaring that her company is a “mobile-first” one. At Yahoo’s inaugural mobile developer conference (formerly known as Flurry’s Source conference), it was made known that Flurry would be the de facto platform for developers and she also took the time to reintroduce the developer ecosystem to the brand new Yahoo Developer Network.

It’s pretty well-known that Yahoo is late in the game to court developers, especially as bigger players like Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Apple have been stepping up their respective games over the year. So what exactly could this 20-year-old iconic Silicon Valley company do to compete with that? Mayer was not going to be dissuaded and the company put on a good show to try and convince developers that it can offer them better content & information, relevancy, and data that’s pertinent to their users.

Yesterday, I wrote there would be some confusion about what exactly Yahoo would present at the conference. Would the company showcase its wares to convince advertisers that it can generate eyeballs or would it be a true appeal to developers? It turns out that it’s more of the latter than the former, but not by much. Today’s announcements show that the company wants to cater to the developers and is putting its best foot forward.

Yahoo Developer Network: What’s New?

Before today, Yahoo’s developer network was simply a hodgepodge of services with no unifying theme. Today that has changed with Flurry becoming what all mobile development will be around. And there are five new updates announced today, including:

Flurry Analytics + Explorer

An updated analytics user interface and a data-exploration interface that returns insights to complex queries in seconds, all without having to write any code, build queries, wait for calculations, or even implement a new SDK. TechCrunch‘s Josh Constine has rightly said that this move is a clear attack on services like Mixpanel and New Relic — mostly because this capability is available for free.

Flurry Pulse

This new capability allows developers to easily share app data with approved partners just by using a single SDK. Currently available invite-only, Pulse is billed as being able to limit SDK proliferation and additional engineering work. At launch, the only approved partner is comScore, but you can be sure that more will be added later.

Yahoo App Publishing

Yahoo wasn’t going to get anywhere without helping developers monetize their apps. With Yahoo App Publishing, developers can now tap into high-quality native, video, and display ads utilizing Flurry, BrightRoll, and Gemini.

Yahoo Search in Apps

Applications can now have the search power of Yahoo built right into them, without requiring users to switch between apps, potentially lowering engagement. This is something Yahoo has done specifically with many of its apps, including its core Yahoo app, News Digest, Mail, and Aviate.

Yahoo App Marketing

Now that developers have tools to research, monetize, and engage users, the only other thing left involves getting the word out that an app exists. It’s interesting that in this program, mobile app install ads are not a possibility, but instead, developers can tap into native and video advertising via Yahoo’s network, Tumblr, and thousands of other mobile apps — all via Gemini.

Mayer believes that this suite of products will be appealing to developers. After all, Yahoo has the numbers to show that it can play in the ecosystem. During her keynote, Mayer announced that mobile revenue in the company last year was $1.2 billion and there are now 575 million monthly active users on Yahoo apps. Flurry remains a significant player in the space, supporting 200,000 developers and powering 630,000 apps across 1.6 billion devices.

In addition, it’s the largest publisher on mobile, with 34 properties reaching the aforementioned 575 million monthly active users.

Here’s how Yahoo put its mobile efforts:

Yahoo is all about powering innovation, increasing retention and engagement, and generating new revenue all through an SDK.

Mayer’s gamble

Yahoo’s mobile developer conference wasn’t just any ole’ developer event. It’s a gamble by Mayer and her team that the company can generate more engagement from users who will support her strategy of wanting to show users content that’s contextually relevant to them. By that, I point your attention to TechCrunch Disrupt in 2013 where she said that she was focusing on mobile products that addressed people’s daily habits, such as mail, weather, stocks, news, finance, sports, etc.

So now that Yahoo has a platform where it can unify its tools and resources, Mayer is hoping that it’ll stick and in turn, create a broader ecosystem that could be appealing to shareholders and advertisers. Noticeably, Yahoo’s CEO stuck around long after her keynote, opting not to remain behind the scenes, like most CEOs during traditional developer conferences, but sitting amongst the crowd listening intently as product demos were going on stage.

And in case you were wondering, Yahoo’s shareholders probably thought that today’s news may be a tad bit interesting as the company’s stock closed up 1.65% to $44.37.

The Start of the Yahoo App Ecosystem

With the integration of Yahoo technologies in more and more applications, one may speculate that the company is looking to build what may amount to being strikingly similar to Facebook Home, the failed Android launcher from the social networking company. The amount of content Yahoo can share through various apps using its technology could see the company maybe soon developing its own Android launcher — yes, that does sound far-fetched, I’ll admit, but the pieces are all there.

Yahoo Mobile Developer Conference 2015. Photo credit: Ken Yeung
Yahoo Mobile Developer Conference 2015. Photo credit: Ken Yeung

Yahoo needs to find a way to tie all of these apps and technologies together to build a more cohesive strategy. What is it about the platform that separates it from others like Google, Facebook, and Apple? It’s way late in the game to say it’s a different choice — in fact, it’s more like “Why should we care?” If Yahoo is centering itself around productivity and daily habits, it will need to put more money behind its marketing to convince developers that their apps need to address these needs.

At Yahoo’s mobile developer conference, some great demos on stage helped prove this thesis, but with millions of apps out there and lots of time being spent online, there’s must work still left to be done.

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