Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Yahoo 360 - my review

So, I finally had some spare money this week, and was able to get on a computer at an internet cafe and get my new Yahoo 360 page set up (and thanks again to Steve Rubel for sending it to me in the first place). And here's the surprising news - I actually find it powerful, useful, and easy to navigate, and think that will be of enormous benefit to those who already use Yahoo on a regular basis.

There's a simple trick, in fact, to understanding the power of Yahoo 360, and I'm surprised that no other reviewer I've yet read has mentioned this - that at its heart, its most useful element is that it takes all those damn Yahoo things you've been signing up for over the years (Yahoo Photos, Yahoo Groups, Yahoo News, Yahoo Local, MyYahoo, Yahoo Music - man, the list just goes on and on) and places them all on one centrally-located page. Now, granted, you still actually go to these different sections of the website to change the content of any particular section; what your 360 account does (and why Yahoo has never offered this before is completely beyond me) is simply keep track of what's going on with all of your various services, and produce a little synopsis at your 360 home page regarding the latest changes concerning all of them.

Frankly, this is going to be incredibly nice for all of us who have done various things primarily through Yahoo over the years, and something that Yahoo should've done years ago. Let's say you're like me, for example, and that most of the online discussion groups you belong to are hosted by Yahoo; but unlike me, for example, maybe your primary email account is through Yahoo, or maybe you use Yahoo's instant-messengering service a lot, or maybe you're using Yahoo Photo to host your pictures. As you already know, before you would have to hop from to to to check them all, and to see what the latest has been from each mini-service; what 360 does, though, is simply let you have one central page, that displays the latest two or three items from each of these mini-services simultaneously. Plus the page can be made public (as I've done with mine, for example), which serves as a sort of uber-user's page for those who are curious - not just your photo, age and astrological sign, but a list of all your discussion groups, thumbnails of your photo collection, the latest entries from your blog, even the latest reviews you've submitted to Yahoo Local.

Obviously one of Yahoo's big goals with 360 is to tap into social networking in a much more profound way - and to base it off a feature that already exists, this central Yahoo ID you own, off which all your mini-services are associated. The backbone has been there all this time - Yahoo has already known that it's the same "jasonpettuschicago" joining that Treo discussion group as the "jasonpettuschicago" who just posted a good review of Holiday Club Uptown, and who also likes to have the television listings delivered to his news page. 360, then, is simply a way to turn that backbone into an exoskeleton, and to let us as customers have access to it as much as Yahoo has had in the past. So, you might look up Holiday Uptown in Yahoo Search yourself one night, because your friends want you to meet them there, and you end up seeing my review of it on the Yahoo Local page, and like what I had to say. With one click of a button, then, you can hop right over to my profile, see some discussion groups I belong to that you may be interested in joining yourself, read more of my Yahoo Local reviews and get tips on other cool hipster places in the neighborhood, or read my Yahoo-sponsored blog (a new feature - more below), become a fan, and subscribe to its RSS feed. And if you had a 360 account yourself, you could add me to your "friends" list, another new feature. And then if I add a new "blast" to my page (yet another new feature - think of it like an SMS), like "I'm going to Holiday tonight, if anyone wants to join me," then as my friend you will have this "blast" delivered to your own account, and you could jump up and come over to Holiday for a drink with me.

Ultimately, of course, 360 is going to sink or swim by the same criterion that every other social networking system in time has - by just how many people actually end up using it. It's nice, though, to see that Yahoo has actually gotten things right, and has made it extremely easy for those who want to actually use the social networking tools as a way to socially network. I could see this becoming extremely popular among teens, for example - it combines both the power and breadth of Yahoo with the sorta underground hipster immediacy of something like (i.e. "I'm at the club right this minute! Come have a drink with me, anyone on my list who's close!"). I could also see this being of enormous benefit to those who are already using a plethora of different Yahoo services, and are sick of having to go to separate pages to check the statuses of each. And I love the fact that it's hooked into Yahoo Local, where even my comments about area businesses are connected with everything else about me Yahoo-related; it means that other Yahoo members will be finding me now not only from shared interests but even from shared geographical location. It makes me want to run over to Yahoo Local and start submitting a bunch more reviews, just so more and more people will find my 360 page. Which, of course, is exactly what Yahoo wants me to do, because the more original amateur content there is at Yahoo Local, the better they can compete against Google Local. Smart, Yahoo, smart!

And like mentioned, Yahoo has started a blog-hosting service as part of 360 as well, which is what's gotten everyone in the blogosphere so interested. And,'s a blog-hosting service. What can I say? Not quite as powerful as Blogger or Typepad, but semi-customizable, with an easy interface, and which produces its own automatic RSS feed. It's a blog-hosting service, all right? It's not something to switch over to, if you're already on one of the aforementioned services, but certainly something new blogizens might want to consider, especially those who are already heavily using other Yahoo services, or those like me who are primarily meaning for their blog to be read via RSS (that is, who don't care much what their actual web page looks like).