Yahoo Seeks Social Life with Facebook Connect

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-12-02

Facebook and Yahoo are building a bridge that will let users access their Facebook content from Yahoo and their Yahoo content from Facebook.

Sometime in the first half of 2010, Yahoo users will be able to click the Yahoo Updates tab on the site to see the activities of their Facebook friends, and share Flickr photos, article comments and other Yahoo content in their Facebook News Feeds.

There are no monies changing hands in the deal, which will last five years, Jim Stoneham, vice president of communities for Yahoo, told the New York Times. The arrangement is made possible by Facebook's Connect service, which enables users to access their rich profile information outside Facebook's social network.

Yahoo users will note that they can already access their Facebook content through Yahoo's home page, including previewing messages from Facebook friends on their Yahoo home pages, and share some Yahoo content on Facebook.

The new bridge will shuttle updates users make on Yahoo to their Facebook News Feeds, and spread Facebook updates across Yahoo's Mail, Yahoo News, Yahoo Answers and Yahoo Sports. Users will have to supply their Facebook credentials to Yahoo once the new integration kicks in.

"The content that consumers share with Facebook friends will then create a loop that drives visitors back to Yahoo," Stoneham wrote in a blog post Dec. 2.

And that's the key to the deal for Yahoo. Yahoo still has a massive user base of 500 million people, but the company has lost a touch of relevance. Consider that Yahoo took more than 15 years to amass that number of users. Facebook, which will turn six in February, has seen explosive growth.

In the last 77 days Facebook has added 50 million users, growing from 300 million on Sept. 15 to 350 million on Dec. 1.

That's a fantastic feat by any Web measure. Yahoo's own efforts at socializing-and therefore modernizing-its portal have been rather sad, and the company has closed several social and technological programs that didn't pan out.

The Yahoo Open Strategy is as much a lifeline Yahoo is extending to successful Web destinations in the hopes that they will pull Yahoo out of the doldrums as it is a pledge to consumers to be, well, more open.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the 350 million user milestone in a Dec. 2 blog post in which he also confirmed that the social network is shuttering its regional networks, originally created to boost the site's expansion. Now these sites are a privacy liability. Zuckerberg wrote:

"As Facebook has grown, some of these regional networks now have millions of members and we've concluded that this is no longer the best way for you to control your privacy. Almost 50 percent of all Facebook users are members of regional networks, so this is an important issue for us. If we can build a better system, then more than 100 million people will have even more control of their information."

As the company promised in July, Facebook is adding the ability to control who sees each individual piece of content users create or upload.

Facebook will show users a message that will explain the changes and take them to a page where they can update their settings in the next couple of weeks. 

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