A Closer Look at the Yahoo Toolbar

If you use a toolbar with your browser, I’m curious about which one and why. Some new patent applications from Yahoo have me looking a little closer at the Yahoo toolbar.

I don’t have enough screen real estate on my monitor to load too many toolbars on the browser I use. That’s partially why I split my browsing time almost equally between Firefox and Internet Explorer, with a little Opera thrown in for good measure.

Right now, on Firefox, I’m using the Web Developer Toolbar from chrispederick.com and the Stumbleupon toolbar. On Internet Explorer, I have the Google Toolbar and the AIS Web Accessibility Toolbar

The Web Developer toolbar and the Web Accessibility toolbar both have a lot of useful tools that make it easier for me to dig quickly through a website and see how it’s constructed and how it looks with and without java script and css and images. I can quickly see which links are on a page, whether or not it validates in html and css, what pages look like at different resolutions, and much more.

I tend to use the search box in the Google toolbar frequently, and the Stumbleupon toolbar is more for fun than anything else.

New Yahoo Toolbar Patent Applications

When I look at the Yahoo Toolbar home page, one thing that sticks out is the ability to integrate the toolbar with Norton Spyware Scan built into it. It also appears to allow easy access to some of the other services offered from Yahoo, such as their mail and instant messenger.

Four new patent applications from Yahoo on aspects of the toolbar were published this week, and had me curious if I could find some other patent applications from them that described other functions on the toolbar. Here are the new patent filings:

RSS Awareness

If a page has an RSS feed associated with it, this describes a way that the toolbar can recognize the availability of the feed, and let a person browsing the page to preview that feed.

Systems and methods for improving access to syndication feeds in network browsing applications
Invented by Stephen Owens, James Bollas, Michael Wolford
US Patent Application 20060265518
Published November 23, 2006
Filed on October 31, 2005

Abstract

A browsing application includes instructions for identifying and subscribing to a syndication feed delivered over a network. The instructions include code for analyzing a page of data that has been retrieved over the network by a browsing application to determine the availability of the syndication feed, code for causing a user interface element to be displayed on the browsing application, the user interface element indicating the availability of the syndication feed, and code for responding to a user’s selection of the user interface element by causing the browsing application to display a page which permits the user to subscribe to the syndication feed.

Fast On-Start Access to Web-based Applications and Pages

When you start up your browser, would you like other tabs to open to some of the other pages that you often look at when you first log on the web, such as email, file-sharing applications, content aggregators, personal bookmark pages? This document describes adding that functionality to a toolbar.

Systems and methods for providing features and user interfaces therefor in network browsing applications
Invented by Edward Seitz, Derrick Whittle, Robert Gue, Stephen Owens, Brockton Davis, James Bollas, Michael Wolford
US Patent Application 20060265481
Published November 23, 2006
Filed on May 17, 2006

Abstract

A method and user interfaces for permitting a user to define and edit a set of web sites to be loaded when a network browsing application is loaded. This allows the user to easily keep track of the latest changes to one or more of the user’s favorite web sites, to track the status of corporate information, or the like. The set of web sites can be individually controlled, or an administrator or other entity may specify at least a subset of the set of web sites to be loaded.

Translation Tools

With the global nature of the web, I find often find myself on pages where I don’t know the language being used fluently enough to understand the text on the page. This patent application allows for an in-browser translation.

Systems and methods for language translation in network browsing applications
Invented by Edward Seitz, Brockton Davis, Derrick Whittle, James Bollas
US Patent Application 20060265652
Published November 23, 2006
Filed on October 31, 2005

Abstract

A browsing application for accessing resources over a network includes code for receiving a command from a user to translate textual material appearing on an arbitrary page displayed in the content display area, and code for causing the textual material to be passed to a translation resource on the network, whereby the display area of the browsing application is caused to display a page which includes a translation of the textual material. The application may display a menu accessible from an arbitrary page whereby the user may select among translation options such as a translate to language and a translate from language. The application may be configured to cause text selected by a user to be translated, and/or may cause an entire page to be translated. Translated text may be displayed along with graphics in a layout similar to that of the original page.

Synchronizing Information Between Devices

If you use a handheld and a desktop computer, and want access to information on one transfered over to the other, such as SMS or photos, videos, audio files, this feature allows that to happen.

Systems and methods for providing short message service features and user interfaces therefor in network browsing applications
Invented by Edward Seitz, Derrick Whittle, Robert Gue, Stephen Owens, Brockton Davis, James Bollas, Michael Wolford
US Patent Application 20060265472
Published November 23, 2006
Filed on May 17, 2006

Abstract

A method of transferring content between a plurality of devices, one embodiment of the method comprising opening a network browsing application on a first device; identifying content to be transferred to at least one second device; causing a content transfer user interface to be opened on the first device; identifying the at least one second device; and, causing the identified content to be transferred to the at least one identified second device.

Older Yahoo Toolbar Patent Applications

I found five more patent applications from Yahoo that describe features and functions of the toolbar:

Multiple window browser interface and system and method of generating multiple window browser interface
Invented by Eric Paul Burke and Viraj Chavan
US Patent Application 20060224951
Published October 5, 2006
Filed on October 19, 2005

Abstract

A browser plug-in application provides functionality to allow the creation of a multiple window browser interface environment. By way of example, when the plug-in is activated, each time a user selects a URL to retrieve a new web document, the plug-in displays a new browser window in addition to the existing browser window within a single instance of the web browser application, as opposed to displaying the new browser window in place of the existing browser window. The plug-in, thus, permits users to dynamically view multiple web documents in a side-by-side or tiled fashion in a single instance of the browser application.

Method and system of providing dynamic dialogs
Invented by Alan Wada and Eric Burke
US Patent Application 20060095860
Published May 4, 2006
Filed on November 2, 2004

Abstract

Methods and systems for providing dynamic dialogs, used with a downloadable toolbar for an Internet browser. In an embodiment of the invention an add-on browser toolbar, which may be implemented as a downloadable toolbar application that adds functionality to a Web browser, receives downloadable toolbar data that comprises dialog display data. In response to an event that calls for the display of a dialog, a dialog object is created and the dialog display data is loaded in the dialog object and then displayed to the user.

Method and system of launching applications from a button of a browser
Invented by Brian Coe, Eric Burke, Mike Kaspar, and Stephen Owens
US Patent Application 20050278651
Published December 15, 2005
Filed on May 25, 2005

Abstract

A system and method of launching an application from a button of a browser is disclosed, and includes providing one or more buttons, used with a downloadable toolbar for an Internet browser, which are configured to launch an external application. The method comprises associating the application to be launched with an identification code, pre-configuring the client with the identification code and information necessary to launch the application, and transmitting a plurality of button characteristics which define button behavior. In the case of launching an external application, button characteristics comprise at least the application identification code.

Method and system of providing browser functionality through a browser button
Invented by Alan Wada, Eric Burke, and Duke Tsao-Ming Fan
US Patent Application 20050198220
Published September 8, 2005
Filed on March 5, 2004

Abstract

An embodiment of the invention provides for one or more miniature-browser buttons, used with a downloadable toolbar for an Internet browser. The method may comprise sending downloadable toolbar characteristics from a predetermined Internet site, which includes miniature-browser button characteristics, creating a miniature-browser button in the downloadable toolbar and loading the miniature-browser button using the miniature-browser button characteristics.

Method and system of providing customizable buttons
Invented by Alan Wada, Eric Burke, and Duke Tsao-Ming Fan
US Patent Application 20050039144
Published February 17, 2005
Filed on March 5, 2004

Abstract

An embodiment of the invention provides for one or more customizable buttons, used with a downloadable toolbar for an Internet browser. The method may comprise directing an Internet browser user, using a computer, to a button modification medium, receiving modification information from the Internet browser user and loading the modified buttons on the computer.

Conclusion

Skimming through these patent applications, I feel like I know a little more about what Yahoo is doing with their toolbar. I’m still not convinced that it will take the place of any of the ones that I’m presently using. If I used Yahoo Mail, Instant Messenger, and MyYahoo as an RSS feed reader, I might be more tempted.

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8 thoughts on “A Closer Look at the Yahoo Toolbar”

  1. I would highly recommend Firebug from Joe Hewitt. Currently version 1 is in closed beat, and the previous version (0.41) is somewhat broken in Firefox 2.0.

    I think the expected release of a public beta is n the coming week or so. Amongst many other things, Firebug allows you to inspect any element on the page and view the underlying mark-up (both HTML and associated CSS) delivering that element.

    Also a JS debugger and many new toys. You can see it over at http://getfirebug.com.

    Hands down the best extension ever developed for FF IMO :)

  2. I use Firefox for browsing the web, and use the Google Toolbar and Web Developer Toolbar as well. In addition to your uses of the Web Developer Toolbar, I use it on MySpace to strip out the CSS and see a page without the flashing text and annoying backgrounds.

    I’ve done too much tech support and seen where people have installed “helpful” toolbars for instant messenger and email that have ended up being spyware or adware. Maybe having an IM client in an official toolbar from Yahoo would be helpful, so that you could give the masses something they could trust and an alternative to the malware they are currently using. For myself though, I’d prefer not to have my browsing history and my email and my instant messages all go through the exact same place.

  3. Firebug looks interesting, Richard. Thanks for the link.

    One of the real joys of Firefox are the many extensions that people are creating to use with it.

    Hi Keri,

    I hadn’t thought of using the toolbar to strip the CSS out of Myspace, but that’s a great idea.

    I’ve seen a number of toolbars that include contextual advertising as one of the “benefits” of what they bring to someone who installs them, often without adequate warning and notice to those folks. I’ve been called upon by a number of people to help them uninstall those after they were deluged by popups.

    The issue of data collection is one that concerns me, too. How much do I really want to share with anyone company? It surprised me recently that Firefox maintains a query history that it shares with search sites that do predictive query suggestions, like Microsoft’s Live.com and Google Suggest.

  4. There’s one feature a friend pointed it for saving real estate. The Web Developer Toolbar for FireFox comes with a main toolbar button that toggles the Web Developer Toolbar. So I usually browse with my bar hidden but right next to my back, next and reload buttons is a gear icon that brings up the toolbar for web development research and testing. It’s helpful in maximizing real estate.

  5. Great tip, Dan. Thanks.

    I’ve been thinking of a costlier approach – more real estate :)

    A bigger monitor or a second (and bigger) monitor wouldn’t hurt.

  6. I usually browse with my bar hidden but right next to my back, next and reload buttons is a gear icon that brings up the toolbar for web development research and testing.

    You see it over at GetFireBug or Web Design Ireland

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