Yahoo Search, Mail Revamp Geared to Boost User Engagement

Yahoo said Sept. 16 it will refresh its Yahoo Search and Yahoo Mail capabilities this fall, seeking to boost user engagement and sales versus Google and search partner Microsoft.

Analysis: Yahoo, the maligned Internet company, found itself in familiar territory during its Product Runway press event Sept. 16.

The company, once the gold standard of Internet portals where early Web adopters feasted on news and other information, pulled back the curtain on new search user interface tools and a snappier Yahoo Mail interface.

While this would be promising for any other Internet company, it feels like more of the same from Yahoo, which is trying to spark the right combination of innovation and enthusiasm that lead to growth enjoyed by Google, Facebook and Twitter.

Despite boasting some 622 million total users, Yahoo needs a hit. Yahoo itself admitted user engagement was down, with fewer unique visitors flocking there when they can go to Google, Facebook or Twitter to satisfy their search and social networking desires.

Yahoo's 2008 revenue was $7.2 billion, dropping to $6.5 billion last year. This year, growth looks flat versus 2009, TechCrunch said.

The evidence points to Yahoo having an identity crisis, so much so that it brought in former Microsoft executive Blake Irving to add focus and clarity.

Is Yahoo a media company or a technology company? For example, Yahoo acquired media aggregator Associated Content in May. One week later, it acquired location-based service provider Koprol.

One is a media buy, the other a technology buy aimed at offering Foursquare-like check-ins. It's hard to define what one is, when one keeps redefining itself as it goes. Yahoo's moving target evolution has seen many revolutions.

More than two years ago, the company reworked its approach as an open platform provider under the Yahoo Open Strategy banner.

The idea was to open up Yahoo's core technological coal mines, Yahoo Search and Yahoo Mail, to let developers build third-party widgets and apps that would extend those platforms to the farthest corners of the Web.

That never happened and many of the executives behind that push departed for more lush fields.