RealTime IT News

Yahoo Rewires to Get More Social

SAN FRANCISCO -- Yahoo is in the midsts of a major overhaul of all its services to help it cash in on the kinds of features made popular by MySpace, Facebook and other social networks.

Ari Balogh, the Web portal's chief technology officer, said Yahoo would undertake a sweeping effort to unify user profiles throughout its services.

Balogh, speaking here at the Web 2.0 Expo, said Yahoo's goal is to create a deeper integration of users' social relationships into the portal and its features, based around the "social graph" of relevant connections to friends and contacts. The term has been popularized by Facebook to describe the connections between people in a social network, though Yahoo is not strictly aiming to create new competition with the likes of Facebook and its peers.

"We are not creating another social network," he said. "We will rewire the entire Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) experience to make it social. We don't think of social as a destination but as a dimension."

He said the top-to-bottom effort, which he called Y!Open, was already well under way and would be evident in changes made over the course of the year and into 2009.

With the changes, Yahoo Mail users could see pop-ups of the most relevant messages based on past correspondence or other criteria set by users. Sports news would be customized to the user's area of interests linked to friends in their network -- fantasy sports leagues, for example.

Balogh said he didn't have time to detail plans in the mobile area -- a key focus for Yahoo, as execs have discussed in other recent forums -- but said the company is committed to making the mobile experience integral to its social overhaul.

He also announced that Yahoo's SearchMonkey developer tool is now open in a "limited preview" to Web site owners and third-party developers.

Balogh said the online tool will let developers build data services that can be used to present richer, more useful search results. These data services can be constructed using structured data either from the Yahoo Search index or from publicly available sources including APIs .

"The goal is get users from to "do" to "done" much more quickly, Balogh said. "We are making the search engine results richer and fundamentally more relevant."

He said the goal is to make it simpler for developers to take an application and put it where the consumer wants while managing privacy concerns.

"Keeping data private and what consumers want as opt-in is absolutely at our core," he said. "Consumers will be able to choose where and how to make their experience more unified."

Microsoft's bid to buy Yahoo could certainly have an effect on how all this plays out, though Balogh didn't bring the subject up during his address.