Aug 31

Nat Torkington

Nat Torkington

Geobloggers and the Y! Identity API

As part of the much-grizzled-about integration of Yahoo! and Flickr is the barely-heralded (or if it was heralded, the heraldry passed me by) release of a user authentication API. This lets anyone authenticate against Yahoo!'s user directory, giving you instant access to Carl Sagan-like billions and billions of users [update: not quite: it authenticates against Flickr users, but Yahoo! users can now trivially become Flickr users--see Eric's comment below]. Suhweet!

I was first alerted to this by Dan Catt, an O'Reilly Radar reader, who sent us this:

Hi Gang,

Just wanted to drop you a line about the Flickr/GoogleMaps "mash-up", which I believe has been on your radar before.

Putting aside the Google Part (and scrappy old slow server) for the moment I want to mention the Flickr, Yahoo and Web 2.0 part instead.

I think, unless I'm mistaken, that geobloggers is the first web site (as opposed to cool tool) to have fully intergrated with the new Flickr/Yahoo authentication scheme. The whole site is built on and backended by the Flickr API (while the map interface is managed by the Google maps API). I use Flickr to manage user registraion, login, information and photo storage.

Because the new Flickr API ties in with Yahoo is means that anyone with a Yahoo username can login and use the geobloggers site, without any additional registration. Geobloggers has gone from a potential user base of anyone with a Flickr account, who sent me an email, that I'd have to process by hand, to anyone with a Yahoo Account and I don't have to do anything. The user base has shot up into the millions, any Yahoo member is a geobloggers member by default. Frankly I actually find that pretty scary.

Geobloggers also directly (but fairly transparently) allows the uploading of photos to Flickr, from within the geobloggers interface and also manages tags, titles and descriptions. Once a Yahoo user has logged in, and as a side effect been given a free Flickr account, they need never really be aware of the fact that they have a Flickr account. Geobloggers is not quite there yet with the total transparency, but it's easy to see how a site could be put together to totally hide the fact that it was built on the Flickr API.

Right, back to Web 2.0. Geobloggers uses Google Maps API to handle the Mapping, although this is hot swapable, geobloggers consumes it's own backend feeds for plotting on the map. Flickr/Yahoo API is used to manage user/photo data and storage. Geobloggers now has stored nearly 60,000 geotagged images (the largest searchable collection on the internet I think, growing at 450 a day), adding to that it allows users to add geotagged notes, links, audio/podcasts and video, currently just a handful but growing. I'm aiming for location based podcasting now :)

It then turns all that around and spits it out in a number of different formats for other developers to consume, CSV, XML, GPX, RSS, geoRSS and Google Earth, via it's own API type data feed thing.

I don't think that this would have been possible to build from scratch, by one person, working a handful of hours a week without the Google Maps API and the Flickr/Yahoo API. And in turn feed the data back out again in a useful format for other people to work with. So I'm pretty sure this is what Web 2.0 is all about.


PS, I just got mail from QOOP that they've just launched a site using the Flickr API too.

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Comments: 4

  Dennis Thompson [08.31.05 02:14 PM]

BFD, Flickr and Yahoo are pissing me off. I am thinking about jumping to smugmug. No one owns them and they seem to be heading in the right direction with their new map toy:

  Eric Costello [08.31.05 03:12 PM]

The Flickr API does not actually let "anyone authenticate against Yahoo!'s user directory". The API authenticates against Flickr's user base. yes, any Yahoo account can create a Flickr account, but until they do, the Flickr API doesn't know them from adam.

  Rev Dan Catt [08.31.05 04:04 PM]

What Eric says is true. By using the Flickr API you don't automatically get access to Yahoo users.

The beauty of the way Flickr is set up though, is that when a Yahoo user without a Flickr account tries to login and authenticate themselves they are presented with just one extra step. Which is to pick a Flickr Screen Name, at which point the Flickr API does know them from adam.

From a developers point of view, to allow any *Yahoo* user to login, all I had to do was provide a login button, the API handled the rest.

The login process is detailed here...

For geobloggers the Flickr API really has opened up access to any Yahoo user, without having to deal with any of the messy user management itself. From the users point of view they just continue to use Yahoo to sign in, no new accounts or passwords to remember. It's a winning situation for both developer and user.

  gnat [08.31.05 04:27 PM]

Thanks for the correction, Eric--I updated in the blog post. My bad for misreading Dan's message. I think it's still a major step forward: anything that lets me integrate my site better with Yahoo! makes it that much more likely that Y! will buy it. Uh, I mean ... :-)

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