Yahoo Finally Hits Blog Scene

Yahoo announced Yahoo 360, a service that combines blogging tools with social networking.

The new Yahoo services have similarities to MSN Spaces, the blogging/sharing service launched by Microsoft in December.

Like MSN Spaces, Yahoo 360 lets users set privacy and permission levels for access to their content. MSN Spaces lets users share music play lists, and Yahoo 360 lets them link to friends’ LAUNCHcast play lists. It also follows MSN’s route of integrating with other communication tools, including LAUNCHcast radio stations, Yahoo Messenger, Address Book and Groups.

The blogging tools let users post text and photos via Yahoo 360, My Yahoo, Yahoo Mobile Internet or any RSS reader.

Yahoo added social networking components, such as the ability to set up a “My Friends” page, which is automatically updated, as fresh content generated by buddies goes live. In Yahoo Local, users can choose to view listings that have been rated or reviewed by their friends. They can also “blast” out a message to everyone in the Friends list.

The service will launch on March 29 as an invitation-only beta. The company plans to get feedback from the initial group, add features, and then widen the availability of the beta.

Yahoo is the last major search provider to add blogging, a service many see as a must-have for search services and portals.

“We now have MSN and Yahoo saying straight out, ‘This suite of products is a bundle, and the competition will be at the bundle level,'” said David Jackson, an independent market analyst and editor of the Internet Stock Blog.

Jackson said Google will have to follow suit, adding instant messaging and other services to match the broader suites offered by MSN and Yahoo.

Google acquired Pyra Labs, makers of the Blogger blog authoring tool, in February 2003. Ask Jeeves last month bought Trustic, creator of blogging software and Bloglines, a Web-based RSS reader.

According to a survey by RSS service provider Feedburner, Bloglines was the top RSS aggregator in January 2005.

Yahoo was an early aggregator of RSS feeds, however, and the company claims its My Yahoo RSS reader is the most used in the market.

The pages and pages of content Yahoo 360 users will likely generate could go a long way toward easing the “little ad gap” Yahoo faces.

Google , the leader in search and, likely, in revenue from pay-per-click ads on search results and third-party Web sites, lets bloggers and small publishers quickly and easily enable ads on their site.

Yahoo, which doesn’t break out search revenue from other kinds of advertising, is testing contextual search on a few blog sites, but hasn’t officially launched the Yahoo Publishers Network yet. Making the network available to Yahoo 360 users could boost ad revenue.

Jackson questioned whether Yahoo’s blogging service might be too late, however, to capture enough of the user base for blogging tools; many, he thinks, already are using one of the competitive services, which include the independent Six Apart.

“Will they be able to leverage the stickiness of their e-mail and IM services to sign up tons of people for their own blogs?” he asked. “Or will they find that there are many people they’ve missed the boat on? That’s up in the air.”

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