Yahoo Aims to Get More Social With Updated Profiles

Yahoo continues to roll out its Open Strategy aimed at overhauling its platform and services by opening itself to more developers and becoming more social with the debut Thursday of a new universal user profile.

Now available in a beta version to all Yahoo users, Yahoo Profiles is a centralized control panel designed to allow users to manage their activities, interests and social connections across Yahoo -- and eventually all of the Web -- from one place, Yahoo said.

"This new profile is not intended to be a new social destination on Yahoo," said Jim Stoneham, Yahoo's vice president of communities, in a blog post. "Rather, our plan is to integrate 'social' as a central dimension into the services you use every day."

For example, he noted, a user on Yahoo Messenger already is seeing Yahoo Buzz and Twitter updates as part of their friends' status messages. Soon, users can see support for those types of social capabilities added across Yahoo. For example, the new home page Yahoo is testing will have an application that allows users to follow their friends' actions across the Web. Yahoo Mail will display mail from a user's most important social connections first, he added.

As users start setting up new profiles, they can add connections from their Yahoo Address Book. Then, as Yahoo starts adding support for social features to the Yahoo home page and Mail, that profile information will be used as the "trusted source of identity and social preferences" he added.

"This will be extended across the Web as developers begin using the open APIs we're offering as part of our Yahoo Open Strategy, allowing them to build more social experiences based on your preferences," Stoneham said. "Ultimately, our goal is to unify your social experience and connections not only on Yahoo, but anywhere you travel across the Web. Rolling out the new profile today is just first."

Marshall Kirkpatrick, a blogger at Read Write Web, described the news feed technology that Yahoo is using for the updated profiles as the "dominant Internet metaphor of the day. The cascading waterfall of updates from your friends, with comments swirling even around those -- that model is everywhere now!

[Yahoo Profiles] is a really simple way to have a profile page online, something that millions of people still don't have, and to watch a news feed of your contacts' activities! It does almost nothing else, in fact! There's no bulk contact import, invite or discovery -- much less a secure standards based one."

While Kirkpatrick went on to describe Yahoo's Profiles as "pretty unimpressive," he projected that millions of people will use it because it's a news feed. "There's no putting the news feed back in the bottle, though," he said. "Every single major social network quickly began offering a news feed after Facebook's made the value of the feature self-evident. News feeds are everywhere, they are an arguably efficient and pleasing (for some) way to relate to an unending supply of information."

As part of its Open Strategy, Yahoo also has moved to open its Yahoo Search engine to allow third parties to add a wide variety of data to the results.

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