SUNNYVALE, Calif.-Yahoo, whose user base has been either flat or slowly slipping, depending upon whose research you believe, announced some upgrades in its Web products Sept. 16 that it hopes will help regain some luster.
The venerable Web services provider, still one of the most relied-upon Websites in the world, didn’t show analysts and media all that much at its “Product Runway” event at its corporate headquarters here.
Mainly, the message was that the company is investing heavily in updating its entire platform-including redesigning its home page, strengthening the overall site engine and building more data centers to improve overall performance.
In fact, Yahoo will unveil its latest state-of-the-art data center, located just outside Buffalo, N.Y., on Sept. 20. Yahoo also said it will power free WiFi service in Starbucks Coffee stores beginning this fall in the United States. Naturally, users who log on to the free networks will be directed to Yahoo content tailored to their local market. Demonstrations at the event on Sept. 16 included Yahoo Groups, Yahoo Citizen Sports, a revamp of its e-mail service and additional speed in its search engine.
New Yahoo product strategy chief Blake Irving said Yahoo Search is now penetrating more Websites and generally displaying larger listings of results. Of course, most of this improvement is due to the new Microsoft Bing power plant.
Yahoo-No. 2 behind Google with about 17 percent of the search market share in the United States-and Microsoft signed a 10-year pact in July 2009 to share the technology and the ad revenue. Within the next few weeks, Yahoo will add update access on its home page to Twitter, Facebook and Zynga (social gaming), so that users can file updates to any of those sites without having to log on.
Go-to site for connecting across networks?
“We want to be the first choice to be home base for connecting across networks,” Irving said. Yahoo Groups, revamped recently and now live-although a few features are still not quite ready for prime time-granularizes the Facebook idea. It enables users to create local and/or special-interest groups of friends who can share updates, photos, videos, event listings, polls and several other features.
“On Facebook, if you have hundreds of friends, you have to be careful about posting something that might be offensive or just not relevant to somebody,” Greg Rosenberg, Yahoo’s director of user experience, told eWEEK. “With Yahoo Groups, you can start up a neighborhood page with a smaller group, for example, that would be of interest only to those neighbors living in the neighborhood.
“There are already millions of people (115 million in 10 million Yahoo Groups) using this, and it’s ramping up.” Irving said Yahoo will keep investing in applications for mobile devices like the iPad and the upcoming Android-powered tablets. The Yahoo tablet home page will include e-mail, news, an alarm clock, links to Twitter and Facebook, and a weather forecast page.
Yahoo has signed contracts with about 100 carriers and handset makers globally to preinstall Yahoo applications on mobile devices, said Irv Henderson, Yahoo director of mobile applications.