Yahoo! Hosts 'Hack Day' in India

The one-day event attracted some 100 Web developers, who toiled over 24 hours to create new software using the company's application programming interfaces

A motley crew of some 100 Web developers gathered at Taj Residency here for Yahoo's Open Hack Day, which made its first appearance in Asia over the weekend.

The one-day event on Friday attracted students, employees of software companies and even the unemployed, who toiled over 24 hours to create new applications based on Yahoo's application programming interfaces (APIs) and technology.

This was the third in a series of Open Hack Day held over the past year, and the first in Asia. Yahoo kicked off its inaugural Hack Day in Sunnyvale, United States, in September 2006, and held the second one in London, United Kingdom, in June this year.

In the software parlance, hacking refers to the "modification of a program or device to give users access to features that were otherwise unavailable to them". Thus, hacks are not necessarily always conducted with malicious intent.

"Hack Days were initially started for Yahoo employees," said David Filo, founder of Yahoo, who was in town for the occasion. He noted that the Internet company previously gave its developers a day off to venture into projects that may not be part of their daily tasks.

"The response was overwhelming," Filo said. "And that's when we decided to extend Hack Days to everyone, whether they work at Yahoo or anywhere else."

Bradley Horowitz, vice president of Yahoo's advanced development division, explained that Hack Day will allow the company to "empower" anyone to be a creator and make it "even easier for them to build the next generation of Web [applications]".

According to Filo, there are currently some 500 million Yahoo users worldwide. "But we know that a large chunk of the next half billion will come from emerging markets, such as India, Latin America, Middle East and other Southeast Asian countries," he said.

He added that the profile of the next half a billion users is going to be very different from that of existing Yahoo users. "Events like the Open Hack Day, is one way of getting to know what value Yahoo can offer to this next half a billion population," Filo added.

AND THE WINNERS ARE...On Friday, Yahoo set up a staging area at India's Taj Residency, complete with desks, Wi-Fi connectivity, a stop-watch and bean bags, and provided hotdogs, India's local kathi bread rolls, pastries, biscuits and cold beverages.

Some of the participants chose to work alone, while others worked in groups. A majority of them stayed awake through the night to work on their applications.

At the end of the 24-hour deadline, there were 31 submissions and a member from each participating team had 90 seconds to showcase their hacks.

The "Best in Show" award went to an application called "Maps Doodle", which integrated Yahoo Maps with a canvas overlay. The tool allows users to doodle on maps or highlight routes to specific destinations, in more user-friendly functions than creating codes using the API. For example, the user's movements are recorded as he draws out the route. He can then send an URL link, which his friends can access to replay the path he drew out.

The "Brainiest Hack" award went to an application dubbed "YaHealer", a Yahoo Widget that allows doctors to collaborate and share medical files and photos online.

In total, Yahoo acknowledged 10 applications at the event.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.