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Yahoo Goes on an 'Open' Offensive

Yahoo
Source: Yahoo

SUNNYVALE, Calif. - Like the guy in The Graduate who whispers the secret to success to the Dustin Hoffman character -- "Plastics" -- Yahoo execs held a media briefing here Thursday to lay out the key a growth strategy that could be described in a word: "Open."

Speaker after speaker detailed plans to open up various Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) services, from music and search to mobile and advertising. Most of these initiatives had already been announced earlier at separate events, including the ambitious mobile development platform called Blueprint, announced yesterday at the CTIA conference in San Francisco.

Yahoo did reveal the first details of a plan to open up the Yahoo Music site to include information from other popular services like Apple's iTunes and Amazon.com's music site.

"Everything on Yahoo now is published by Yahoo," said Scott Moore, who heads Yahoo's media business. "It will completely open up in the next few weeks with a cleaner design."

That cleaner design includes a right-hand column filled with new content and services from Yahoo and its partners, such as Pandora Internet radio, Amazon and iTunes, along with Yahoo's own Flickr photo service and others.

"Part of this is us being the center of the ecosystem," Moore said. He also said the right column of services won't benefit Yahoo financially directly, but is part of the company's plan to be "the center of the ecosystem" and provide users with a better online experience.

With its executive team under fire to produce better results, the press briefing is one of many attempts, including its high profile appearance at CTIA, to show the company has a growth strategy it's ready to execute.

Yahoo's stock has been battered since Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) finally abandoned its hostile attempt to buy the company a few months ago.

Along with openness, improving the user experience was another theme repeated by various Yahoo product managers and executives. Aristotle Balogh, Yahoo's CTO, said Yahoo employs economics professors and psychologists, and leverages esoteric fields like rational game theory to help better understand how humans interact.

Aristotle Balogh
Aristotle Balogh
Source: Yahoo
"There's a tremendous amount of data mining and information we pull together to gain a better understanding of user intent and motivation," he said. "Even on the advertising side, we look at how best to present our content to users."

Balogh said that "very shortly," Yahoo would be able to provide its users a customized Web experience based on their interests. He gave a specific example of a more personalized home page focused on a user's interest in sports, with stories from different content sources including Yahoo and its partners. Balogh added that Yahoo already has the biggest, most engaged audience on the Internet, numbering over 500 million.

Yahoo's head of research, Prabhakar Raghavan, elaborated on the concept of more anticipatory Web services earlier this week at an industry event.