LAS VEGAS—Yahoo Chief Executive Jerry Yang on Jan. 7 highlighted his vision for reinvigorating the pioneering Web company and solidifying Yahoo’s role as the essential starting point for Web users.
In the co-founder’s first major speech since taking over as CEO in June, Yang told an industry conference about inroads Yahoo is making in putting Web services on mobile phones and provided a glimpse into its evolving overall strategy.
He said services would be more social, making it easier for users to update friends automatically on their Web activities.
“With Yahoo, we plan on being the most essential starting page for your life,” Yang told the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the premier U.S. conference for the technology industry.
Yahoo is looking to recover its footing following years of gains by rivals including Google, Facebook and News Corp’s MySpace in attracting vast audiences for Web search, advertising and social networking. Yahoo shares are near a four-year low, and ended flat on Monday at $23.18.
Yahoo aims to grow beyond a base of several hundred million users that already make Yahoo.com their online starting point.
Yang demonstrated publicly for the first time a prototype of a new version of Yahoo Mail, the most widely used consumer e-mail service in the world, with more than 250 million users.
He showed how Yahoo Mail can become “a smarter inbox” and more like a social network that sends updates of a user’s online activities to friends in their Yahoo Mail address book.
Yahoo wants to move beyond its historic role as a place to find links to information, community activities and e-commerce to tackle emerging problems as users spend more time online.
“It is also about complicated collaboration and getting stuff done with people,” he said. “We have so many tools that enable us to solve some pretty complicated problems in your life,” he said of Yahoo users.
Instead of showcasing Yahoo-only features in e-mail, it could incorporate services from eBay, Viacom’s MTV, IAC/InterActiveCorp’s eVite, MySpace and other outside services, Yang said.
He was joined on stage during his speech by co-founder David Filo, who helps run the company’s technical operations.
“The good news is that we are not that far away from delivering this,” said Filo, who holds the title of Chief Yahoo. “In the coming months you will be hearing a lot more about Yahoo and new platforms.”
The prototype service scours a user’s e-mail for relevant information buried in e-mail discussions with friends. It can then tease out connections for organizing group events like a dinner outing, Yang said. Yahoo Mail automatically maps this group plan and can send each person involved a personalized view of it, accessed through either their computers or phones.
Yahoo also aims to make services more personally relevant, moving away from a one-size-fits-all home page to let each user create customized views of Web content both on and off Yahoo.
Wang and other executives have argued in recent months that they have a chance to embrace Yahoo’s roots as the first major Web index by driving users to hot spots outside Yahoo.com.
Yang is under pressure to show he can step up growth in its existing services and advertising while getting a jump on emerging markets, such as reaching Web users on mobile phones.
Earlier on Jan. 7, Yahoo introduced a variety of new features in its mobile Internet strategy designed to make it easier for users to access the Internet on mobile phones.
Yahoo is letting outside sites make mini-Web services that can be featured on Yahoo sites aimed at mobile phone users. Initial partners include MySpace, auctioneer eBay and MTV.