Friday, March 25, 2005

Early peek at Yahoo 360

A few reviews are starting to come in from a closed beta of Yahoo's upcoming social networking and blogging site, Yahoo 360. Charlene Li says:
    Central to the whole service is the concept that you want to communicate and connect with the people that you already know, rather than try to meet new people. To this end, your home page on the service shows the most recent content published by people within your network ... In essence, the content is being pushed to you by the service.
Curiously, it sounds a lot like Amazon's About You pages.

But I think Yahoo is on to the right idea. Social networking is needs a purpose. It has to be about more than just building a network. I'm not sure whether sharing Yahoo content is a compelling enough purpose, but at least it has a purpose.

Some reviews of Yahoo 360 seem to say that it doesn't pass the "Would your mother use this?" test. Danah Boyd said, "The controls are really overwhelming" and "I'm really worried about the novice user."

Complexity is a problem with a lot of social networking sites, and it's too bad that Yahoo didn't solve this problem. Ideally, using the site should be fun, effortless, and feel like play, not work.

Update: Looks like invites are flying for Yahoo 360. I spent some time on it. It's like some combination of Orkut, MSN Spaces, and Amazon's About You pages.

I'm enjoying playing with it, but I am finding setting it up to be a lot of work, perhaps too much of a startup hurdle for many users. It's got nice integration with some blogging and messaging tools. We'll see if that's enough of a purpose to keep people coming back.

Seeing Yahoo 360 makes me think about missed opportunity for both Amazon and Google. Amazon has had About You pages for 4-5 years but didn't expand them further into a general social software tool. Google has had Orkut and Blogger for a couple years, but we've seen little additional innovation from them.

Update: Two and a half years later, Yahoo 360 shuts down.

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