RealTime IT News

Yahoo Back to its Future With Web 2.0 Look

The latest version of Yahoo's "Web 2.0" experience is now peeking out at millions of users, with content about entertainment, sports and e-mail flickering and blinking onto their home pages.

No need to hit the refresh button for your favorite Yahoo info fix or service.

The portal giant's piping it all into your home page in the preview today.

As internetnews.com first reported in March when the new look went up for select users, the re-design also places Yahoo's search bar much higher up on the front page.

The new look helps explain the evolving Web as a search and information platform, otherwise dubbed Web 2.0, thanks to the use of AJAX-driven Web applications.

AJAX,   which enables Web sites to update a browser page without the need to reload the entire page, is all the rage in the developer world right now.

AJAX has the ability to make browser-based or Web applications perform as if they're running on a user's computer or client, instead of from another Web server.

And although some voices in the Web development world may consider AJAX not quite ready for prime-time, developers at Yahoo might beg to differ.

It's not just AJAX that breaks a bunch of paradigms about the Web as we have known it for years, said Tapan Bhat, a vice president for Yahoo who's responsible for the portal's "Front Door" sections.

"The old paradigm was that you click on a link on a portal, you go away [to that link]," Bhat told internetnews.com.

"Or you might have six or seven different modules on a Web page, which would get very cluttered. Now, if you don't want all that information showing at all times, you can tuck [the modules] away."

"We've taken the portal model and turned it on its head," he added. "Ajax is a key technology that enables us to do it. When people want to see a preview of their information, the site will go fetch it and put it in the page."

Yahoo calls this AJAX-driven tool its Personal Assistant box. It displays the latest e-mails, weather, IM buddy list and entertainment news in one module on the user's personalized home page.

It also displays local weather forecasts, traffic and events from Yahoo! Local.

Then there's search. In many ways, the prominent search bar atop the page keeps the media/portal giant in touch with its search roots amid booming growth as a major content delivery platform for millions of users around the globe.

Plus, if it also helps more users get out of their all-Google-all-the-time search rut and give Yahoo a spin again, Yahoo's advertisers will be even happier.

After all, search is still the No. 1 thing users come to Yahoo about, the company noted. Plus, Yahoo has just launched its re-designed advertising platform.

So if more users think of using Yahoo for searches while getting their entertainment, news, and e-mail fix, that wouldn't hurt.

In addition, the fresh content piped to a module, albeit in a top level view, keeps users lingering on the page, right next to display ads. That's just what advertisers want to buy -- access to folks who spend more time next to their ad and branding messages.

The redesign is considered the most significant since Yahoo launched close to 12 years ago, long before it became the one of the largest portal sites.

Overall, monthly unique users of Yahoo! grew by about eight percent in the first quarter of this year to 104 million in the U.S., up from just over 96 million during the first quarter of 2005, according to online stats researcher Nielsen//NetRatings.

Globally, however, Yahoo is still considered the portal king with some 180 million monthly unique visitors in April, according to Web ratings firm comScore.

But while Yahoo may still be considered the king of the portal destination stats, it's still chasing Google in search.

For example, Nielsen//NetRatings ranked Yahoo's 1.3 billion searches in March at second behind Google's 2.1 billion search tally (both of which were up by 47 percent and 41 percent, respectively).

The new Yahoo page comes at a time when Yahoo is flinging its application programming interfaces   open to more developers and inviting them to connect their sites to Yahoo's information platform.

The new design currently supports IE version 6.0 and Firefox version 1.0, and is available for users from the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Yahoo said the new look is headed for wider global markets later this summer.