Yahoo courts developers at its first mobile conference

Attendees at Yahoo's mobile developer conference had good things to say about its new tools

The doors of the Nob Hill Masonic Center in San Francisco, where Yahoo held its first mobile developer conference on Feb. 19, 2015.

The doors of the Nob Hill Masonic Center in San Francisco, where Yahoo held its first mobile developer conference on Feb. 19, 2015.

Mobile users have become a vital part of Yahoo's recovery effort, and on Thursday it tried to woo developers with new tools to help them build better apps using its services.

The company held its first-ever mobile developer conference in San Francisco on Thursday, where it unveiled tools that help developers collect data about their apps and make money from them using Yahoo advertising services.

Many of the tools come courtesy of Flurry, a mobile analytics and advertising company Yahoo acquired last year. Flurry now has more than 200,000 developers using it's tools, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said Thursday. Yahoo hopes to get even more developers on board by giving them new ways to see how their apps are performing and by baking Yahoo advertising options directly into Flurry.

Developers who use Flurry can now use the service to incorporate Yahoo search into their apps, for instance. And a new tool called Flurry Explore makes it easier for developers to track how users move through their apps and tweak them to increase engagement.

More than 1,000 people attended the one-day conference, many of them small or independent software developers. Several expressed interest in the new tools, but said they need time to assess how useful they were.

"If they're easy to use like Yahoo says, lots more people might use Flurry," said Ashley Fernandes, who works on prototype app designs at Intuit.

Using Flurry, developers at Tempo AI, a smart calendar app, were able to see a steep increase in engagement after they changed how their app presents alerts. That data helped confirm the change was a good move, cofounder Thierry Donneau-Golencer said.

Flurry's analytics tools are free, but developers must pay if they want to advertise their apps in Yahoo's own mobile products. Developers can also have ads placed by Yahoo within their own apps.

The goal is a mutually beneficial partnership: developers get tools from Yahoo to attract more users and make money, and Yahoo gets to sell more ads and perhaps gather data about mobile users along the way.

Mayer has spent nearly two years rebuilding Yahoo's mobile products, which are a cornerstone of her efforts to make Yahoo a leader again in Silicon Valley.

"We're continuing to invest to make our own apps great, but we want to take what we've learned, including monetization, and make it more broadly available," Mayer said during a talk with the press.

Other developers at the show said they liked having the ability, within Flurry, to advertise their apps within Yahoo apps like Tumblr and the Yahoo News Digest. The ads, known as "native ads," are meant to mimic the content around them.

The event could build awareness of the tools Yahoo offers, said Philipp Kuecuekyan, an independent app developer.

But Yahoo needs more than awareness if it wants to be "the most partner friendly company in Silicon Valley," as Mayer put it Thursday. The company faces stiff competition for mobile developers from Facebook, Google and Twitter, which also provide tools for creating and monetizing apps.

"They've got their work cut out for them," said Nikhil Modi, CEO at Whiz Technologies, which places ads in publishers' apps. He pointed to Google's AdMob as a powerful competitor to Flurry.

But, he said, "it's good that Google's got competition."

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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