As it struggles to emerge from Google's shadow, Yahoo has been building up Yahoo Finance -- the No. 1 consumer finance site -- to maintain its lead where Google lags. Yahoo Finance recently underwent internal surgery because the company wanted more freedom to innovate and to lessen its reliance on third-party data providers.
Two years ago, Yahoo began building its own stock ticker platform so it didn't have to buy the service from companies such as Bloomberg and Reuters. Beyond the licensing costs, Yahoo had to renegotiate contracts, a time-consuming process, every time it wanted to use the financial data for a new service.
The contracts were "really restrictive in terms of what we could use the product for," says Bharath Kadaba, VP of engineering at Yahoo Media Group. "Even to take the quotes and put them on our front page, it took six months to do the deal."
That proved to be a problem. "In an industry that moves the way ours does, speed to market is not to be underestimated," says Peggy White, general manager of Yahoo Finance.
Yahoo began working with some 60 financial exchanges, including Amex, Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange, to buy stock ticker data directly, shape it for easier transport and send it over the Internet -- rather than use dedicated lines like other data providers -- to a network of several hundred servers distributed across the U.S.
From there, Yahoo uses what it calls a "worldwide message bus" to publish ticker data once and distribute it many times, instead of repeated point-to-point distribution that is more network intensive. Kadaba describes the new platform as an extremely scalable system. "For the same cost, I can distribute it to an increasing number of consumers," he says. In order to distribute data for more than a million stock market listings, Yahoo relies on data compression techniques and filtering to keep data packets small.
A beta version of the retrofitted front end for Yahoo Finance debuted in July, full of trendy new technology. The service now includes full-screen interactive charts that have been tricked out with Flash and Dynamic HTML, financial data display badges that users can add to their own Web sites, and an Ajax application that keeps quotes updated on Web pages without requiring the page to be reloaded.
But the significant technology is under the hood. On the old platform, the front end was tied to the back end. The new one, with the message bus and interactive charts, is much more flexible because the front end and back end are independent, Kadaba relates. This allows rapid localization, he explains.
Yahoo was able to take the system it developed for the United States and quickly create a version for other countries. Since the new platform was introduced in the United States in early 2005, Yahoo has adapted it for 20 different countries with relatively minor engineering resources.
White calls the new platform a real competitive advantage. "The innovation that it has sparked in our own engineering team has been really great," she says.
Yahoo Finance serves more than 2 billion stock quotes per day. The site saw 31.4 million visitors worldwide in August, according to Internet metrics company comScore Networks. Its nearest competitor, MSN Money, saw 18.5 million visitors that same month. <<<
Courtesy of InformationWeek, a CMP Media property.