Internet giants Yahoo are preparing to introduce a new service that blends several of the popular features of its site with two of the Web’s fastest growing activities – blogging and social networking.
The hybrid service, snappily entitled “Yahoo 360,” won’t be available until 29 March, but the company decided to announce the product early after details were leaked to news outlets.
The service is designed to enable Yahoo’s 165 million registered users to grab content from Yahoo discussion groups, online photo albums and review section and slap it into their own blogs (web logs).
The service also aims to be big on ‘social networking’, making it easy for users to connect with others who share common interests and friends. Yahoo bloggers (Yahblogoos?!) can either choose to open their blogs to the entire world or restrict access to chums invited through e-mail.
“We heard from people that they have a strong desire to stay close to the people who are important to them, but at the same time they didn’t want to feel like they were exposing themselves online,” said Julie Herendeen, Yahoo’s vice president of network products.
“Yahoo 360 has also been designed to let users consolidate a variety of existing Yahoo services and content in one place, with the goal of increasing users’ interaction” added Paul Brody, the company’s director of community products. “It’s about integrating all the great resources across the Yahoo network into this service to deepen the users’ engagement,” he said.
Similar to Microsoft’s Space and Lycos’ Circles, Yahoo 360 represents Yahoo’s effort to tap into the popularity of blogs and social networking sites.
Although sniffy critics continue to dismiss blogs as the dull mumblings of the self obsessed generation, recent figures reveal that 27 percent of online adults in the United States read them and another 7 percent write them (source: Pew Internet and American Life Project).
Blogging has also started to be recognised as a credible news reporting tool, often publishing stories missed by the mainstream media – the first hand accounts posted on the Web after the Asian tsunami being a notable example.
Of course, the big draw for Yahoo is that social networking sites are establishing themselves as major online attractions, with the prospect of lots of luvverly advertising opportunities.
According to comScore Media Metrix, a research firm, Yahoo notched up 110 million unique visitors last month, accounting for nearly 30 billion page views.
By expanding into social networking and blogging, Yahoo are hoping to make its Web site a more alluring prospect, with the blogs attracting even more visitors to their site.
It has to be said that Yahoo are unfashionably late arrivals to the blogging party, with competitors like MySpace.com Chief Executive Chris DeWolf predicting they’ll have a tough time catching up with entrenched social networking sites.
But Yahoo have some major tricks up their sleeve: millions have already shared their personal information with the company via the registration process and the company has deep, deep pockets, with US$3.5 billion in cash and short-term investments at the end of 2004.
When the service goes online later this month, Yahoo 360 will be initially restricted to users invited by the company. Those early participants will then be able to invite their chums to join in.