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Why YQL?

Content, & to a degree data, has become ubiquitous in this post-Web 2.0 revolution era. Having mounds of content is not only common, its expected. However, you’ll be hard-pressed to make a business around simply serving data (outside “Premium” content like TV shows ala Hulu.) What you can do is take the hoards of distribution channels and make something meaningful out of all this mess.

Making something meaningful, however, is tricky. With an never-ending array of technologies, formats, standards and groups, collecting content is sometimes harder than figuring out how to make it meaningful. Wouldn’t it be lovely if there was a system that simplified the management and manipulation of data around the web?

That’s where the Yahoo! Query Language (YQL) comes in. For those of you unfamiliar, YQL is system that allows you to work with RESTful web-services in a syntax similar to SQL. YQL has three key elements:
  • Basic YQL - a system for “SELECT”ing or polling web-services. 
  • YQL Open Data Tables - a directory system for web-services. 
  • YQL Execute - a way to modify data on the web, really the last piece of the puzzle. 
From a intellectual-curiosity point of view, YQL sounds interesting. However, many technologists argue that YQL is just a niche product and cannot be used for anything commercial. I claim that YQL is much more.

YQL provides two important abilites: managing web-services and manipulating data they serve. I really like how zembly manages available APIs, but wouldn’t it be great for Zembly if they just needed a single XML file? Then, once someone selects three APIs or so, how awesome would it be to write 3 uniform lines to get the data they need?

So far, the only downside to YQL is that it goes through Yahoo!s proxy. But, with a 100,000 call per app, per day limit, most projects are good to go. I looked for frameworks or libraries that cloned YQL’s syntax, but no dice. As of of now, you gotta go through Yahoo!. If you find a framework or library, let me know below.

All that said, I’d suggest trying out YQL. I’m currently working on a full OpenSocial Open Table. Try to find an API you’re passionate about and make table for it. :-D

Thoughts? Blurb it in the comments.


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