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Yahoo Opens Home Page To Developers; Will Allow Sales Of Virtual Goods

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A key component of the recent redesign of the Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) home page was the introduction of third-party apps to Yahoo.com — but in many ways it fell flat. The selection of full-fledged third-party apps has been limited. And while users can create their own apps by searching for the name of a site, these apps turn out to be little more than glorified RSS feeds (See more in our initial review of the home page here). That may all be about to change. Yahoo now says that any outside developer will be able to build an app for the Yahoo home page, in the same way that many already do for the personalized My Yahoo site. To mark the announcement, it is introducing a host of new apps to Yahoo.com that already exist on My Yahoo, including one from personal finance site Mint and a movie app from Flixster.

Yahoo also seems intent on boosting the functionality of the apps developers will build for the home page in the future. In a blog post on the Yahoo Developer Network Blog, Xavier Legros, the director of product for the Yahoo Application Platform, writes that developers will be able to make money by displaying ads and also through the sale of virtual goods. He adds that the company is “working on an array of additional developer monetization opportunities — these will be available soon.”

There’s been speculation in the past that third-party apps could eventually be sold on the Yahoo home page. Citigroup Analyst Mark Mahaney, for instance, has said that the sale of third-party apps could be a “multi-billion dollar (profitable) revenue opportunity” — for both Yahoo.com and the other big portals, although it’s unclear whether people would be willing to pay for the convenience of accessing the service on Yahoo.

The attraction for developers to build an app on the home page is obvious. Yahoo.com gets 330 million unique visitors per month worldwide — and an app on the home page drives traffic and brand awareness. When we checked in with Mint in June, before that company’s sale to Intuit, CEO Aaron Patzer told us that the company’s growth projections depended both on the success of its app on My Yahoo, as well as the possibility that it could ultimately be included on the Yahoo home page. Patzer says that the inclusion of his app on the home page will expose it to more than 100 million people in the U.S.