Yahoo has introduced what I think is a revolutionary concept called BrowserPlus.
BrowserPlus is a browser plug-in unlike any other. As most of you know, a Browser plug-in allows you to add functionality to your browser that it is not built-in. For example, the most popular Browser plug-in is Adobe’s Flash Player.
The reason BrowserPlus is significant is because it is really the plug-in to end all plug-ins. The idea is that once you have BrowserPlus installed, you can install different feature modules as needed seamlessly and without restarting your browser. Right now, installing plugins, while not exactly painful, is enough of a speedbump that, outside the Flash Player, getting people to install them is fairly hard.
The way BrowserPlus works is that if you go to a website that is leveraging BrowserPlus functionality, when a BrowserPlus based feature is needed and not yet installed, a dialog box opens up asking you if it is OK to install it. If you say yes, the dialog disappears and the new functionality is immediately accessible to the website. No restarting of the browser. No reloading of the web page. As Emeril would say… BAM!
The current feature set is light, but that is not really significant since what is really important about this is its dynamic structure. Some of the more interesting functionality available includes drag and drop to/from the desktop, a Ruby interpreter, and a text-to-speech engine. Note however that you can’t work with it yet on your own websites because it is currently a “sneak peak” that is only being tested on Yahoo sites right now.
There are are few important points about this:
- BrowserPlus is like Google Gears, except with a functionally unlimited potential feature set.
- This dynamic plugin concept really could mean the end of waiting for the “next version” of a browser for many or most new features.
- This is a concept that could only be introduced by a small number of companies such as Yahoo, Google, or Adobe, because since they are offering browser extensions, it is critical that the source be trusted — something a start up would have a difficult time achieving.
- If effective, BrowserPlus really could be a game changer for Yahoo. A reasonable deployment rate would put them at the center of the new web instead of just some popular website, which they are now. The strategic implications of this cannot be understated, and could fundamentally change the “who are we as a company” question that seems to be vexing Yahoo right now and forcing people to question their viability as a stand-alone entity.
In short, BrowserPlus is a big deal, and it makes me think Yahoo may just turn into a good long term bet.