First look at Yahoo! 360
By Charlene Li
I got a detailed walkthrough of Yahoo! 360 this afternoon, and I have to say, the Yahoo! team has done an excellent job thinking through key details of how to not only integrate blogs and social networking, but also how to pull in elements from the Yahoo! network. I’ve included a two screenshots that they shared with me for public distribution. (And if you’re a Forrester client, click here to see how I envisioned Yahoo! would incorporate social networking and blogs into their service a year ago – it’s pretty close to what their vision is).
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. This might be a blog post, a photo album, review, or an updated profile item. This page is constantly refreshed as the people in your network update the information on their spaces. This fundamental concept of linking people through their updated “stuff” is what makes Yahoo! 360 unique – and inherently will drive usage of the service higher than traditional social networks. In essence, the content is being pushed to you by the service.
The profile page contains the usual features from social networking sites friends, profile, lists of things you like to do, where you work/went to school, and groups that you belong to on Yahoo! Groups. But it also excerpts content you’ve created that you want to share with your network. This includes not only a blog, but also photos from Yahoo! photos, reviews created on Yahoo! Local, and LAUNCHcast Stations. Its similar to what MSN Spaces has, where users can add content from MSN Photos and MSN Music (Click here to see more on MSN Spaces.)
Also similar to MSN Spaces, as well as Lycos’ Circle product is the ability to set privacy controls for different pieces of content. I can decide to share a specific album with, say, my work friends and another album with only family. At the time of the beta launch, the privacy controls for the blog will be for the entire blog, but Yahoo! said that a top priority is to add privacy controls at the post level.
The blogging tool itself is pretty basic. It allows the insertion of photos, comments, and trackbacks. You can control who can post comments, again through your pre-set groups. Only photos are supported, but Yahoo plans to offer the attachment of other file types soon after beta launch.
One very nice feature was the invitation process itself. Y! 360 integrates with address books on Yahoo! Messenger and Yahoo! Address Book – you can go in and select the people you want to send an invite to. They will add the ability to invite contacts from within Microsoft Outlook soon after launch (are you beginning to see a trend here?). The email invite itself was very nice – it sends a very brief profile of you the photos from your profile and a link to a preview your page. This gives the user an idea of who is inviting them and what the service can provide.
The ability to leverage your network to get something done is what gives Y! 360 the real potential to become something even bigger. At the beta launch, users will have the ability to look narrow local business reviews by their network – a rec’d from someone I know counts for a lot more. Of course, this assumes that people will start creating reviews (a clever way for Y! Local to jumpstart reviews on the service). In the future, I can imagine new modules for job searching, dating, travel planning (“What hotel in Paris would you recommend?”), car buying…the list is extensive. Yahoo!’s (as well as MSN’s and AOL’s) advantage is being a one stop shop in terms of leveraging your network’s knowledge across multiple categories.
The service will be made available to a “select group of beta testers” on the morning of March 29th. Those beta testers will be allowed to invite as many people as they would like – no limits are being set. One thing about the beta – it appears that Yahoo! has a detailed roadmap of improvements that they plan to make to the service, with several becoming available after the beta launch date. Gasp! A real beta! So I’m expecting a lot of glitches, changes, and general growing pains…but I’m setting aside a couple of hours already on Tuesday to get my 360 service up and going.