Yahoo July 21 will begin to invite its millions of users to test its new home page, a lively rethinking of one of the most popular Web destinations that lets users integrate their Twitter, Facebook and other popular Web feeds.
Yahoo, which will duplicate the new home page for mobile Web browsers, aims to keep users on its home page with My Favorites in the left-hand rail of the page.
This section lets users choose to use more than 65 applications, including AOL Mail, Google Gmail, and news content from NPR and Barron’s. Think of them as a bundle of RSS feeds in one place.
Users won’t have to click on those applications right away to see what’s going on in them; they can simply mouse over each entry to see a pop-out preview. This pop-out will also contain contextually targeted ads around those Web services and content to enable Yahoo to make money, Tapan Bhat, senior vice president of Integrated Consumer Experience at Yahoo, told reporters during a conference call July 20.
While Yahoo’s programmers have integrated the applications-such as linking users’ Twitter accounts with their Yahoo feeds so users can get tweets-Yahoo will eventually open up its home page to let third-party programmers write applications for it, Bhat said.
Other perks in the refurbished destination include App Maker, which lets users create their own applications by adding virtually any URL of their choice; Trend Setter, which provides most popular searches and content from Yahoo Buzz; more personalized news piped to the home page; and the ability to share status updates with friends through Facebook and MySpace.
The move is the next leg in Yahoo’s Open Strategy, an ambitious plan to rewire the company’s Web services infrastructure to make it more social and stickier for users.
This plan began under former Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang, who unsuccessfully tried to reverse Yahoo’s poor financial performance, and continues under Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz, who took over the helm six months ago.
Yahoo had originally expected to put the home page in front of users in September or October. Yahoo is expected to announce second-quarter earnings after the bell today, July 21. Thomson Reuters analysts have said they believe Yahoo will earn 8 cents per share on revenue of $1.14 billion.
The Yahoo home page beta is slated to launch at 4:20 PDT, seemingly to temper any negativity around Yahoo’s second-quarter results. U.S. users may try accessing the beta here. A roll-out in France, India and the United Kingdom and on mobile devices is slated for the coming week.
The launch also comes just days after Yahoo officials reportedly met with Microsoft officials over a possible $3 billion search and online advertising tie-up, a move that would help both companies better compete with search engine giant Google.
Investor Carl Icahn is again calling for Yahoo and Microsoft to strike a deal, which ideally would have Microsoft selling ads on Yahoo’s Search engine.
According to ComScore, Yahoo currently commands a 20 percent share of the U.S. search market, while Microsoft’s new Bing search engine ranks third with an 8.4 percent share. Google nets 65 percent.
Yahoo will also eventually tightly integrate its search engine into its home page, something users should begin to see in bucket tests as soon as August.
For example, Bhat said while today’s Yahoo Search application looks markedly different from Yahoo’s homepage, some users in August will begin seeing search results pages that look like the Yahoo homepage, with the same organizational framework: applications on the left, results and contents in the middle, and ads on the right.