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Yahoo 360 First Impressions

Is it possible to judge a new uber social-networking service in just one hour? No -- but I'm going to try anyways.

My gut reaction is that this will be hugely popular. I use My Yahoo! on a daily basis as my personal information organizer (calendar, fantasy sports, tv listings), and the overriding impression I get using 360 is that "this is what My Yahoo! should be more like," or rather, "360 is the complement of My Yahoo!"

360 brings together many separate Yahoo! services under one roof, from photos to IM to groups, as well as adding a new blogging service. The experience of logging into 360 is that of sitting in front of a large communication center gazing out onto my social network: on the left are my messages and my instant messenger list; to the right is the latest additions to my friend's 360 pages as well as my Yahoo! Groups. This is in contrast to My!, which mainly focuses on your own personal information and third-party information sources (comics, news, weather).

In constructing this comparison between the two, I wonder why Yahoo! didn't combine them, or at least incorporate more My! features into 360. For example, 360 has a "Mailbox", but it's not your Yahoo! e-mail -- it's actually just a basic inter-360 messaging service. There's also no linkage between my Yahoo Address Book and the 360 service, other than the fact that you can invite people directly from your address book. It's as if there is a glass wall separating you from the rest of Yahoo, and you are given a box of crayons to copy everything down from the other side. It also gives the feeling of missed opportunities -- e.g. my calendar has absolutely no presence on 360. It seems to me, at least, that there could be a lot of potential in adding the ability to organize events (social calendaring) that could be synced with my personal calendar.

This is an early beta, and perhaps Yahoo! will bring more of the My! world into 360 over time. They will, at the very least, be adding in the ability to subscribe to RSS feeds, which will greatly expand the content that is available and give friends with non-Yahoo blogs the ability to participate (at a reduced level). Maybe I just wish for this convergence because it seems silly that I need two Yahoo! pages opened up in my browser to view my Yahoo! world, all because Yahoo! doesn't know how to integrate the two worlds. [note: I'm not suggesting that Yahoo! mash My+360 into one uber page, but I am saying that 360 needs to be more like My! and integrate with Yahoo better]

Wombat notes that Yahoo 360 is a closed service, and that makes the service suck, and he's right, though I believe when users evaluate the balance of the features that 360 provides, they'll decide that it outweighs to problems of a closed service. After all, Friendster, which is completely closed, is still popular, and Xanga, which is most similar to 360 in that outsiders can view content but not leave comments, is also very popular. There is plenty of stupid 360 closed-world-oriented functionality to frustrate -- e.g. if you send a message to someone, it sends them an e-mail to tell them they have a message, but the e-mail doesn't actually way what the message is (you have to logon). It would be nice if it were more like LiveJournal with regards to openness, but in the end I don't think that's going to effect the popularity of 360.

Comments (2)

I've softened my stance on Yahoo 360 since my intial rant. It makes sense that if there's a social networking component to it, it has to be somewhat closed. And for people who only want to share stuff among friends (those reluctant to blog now), it's an obvious requirement.

Some of my complaints were explained away by bugs or incorrect usage. Initially people were giving out their private url, which caused confusion to public users, and they've since fixed a bug that made you have to logon to Yahoo no matter what. Understandable for a beta product, but it made for a poor first impression of what it was really about.

My biggest beef now has to do with the invite-only strategy. To me, it didn't seem like the Google invites, which started out quietly and there was a scarcity of invites, it seemed like their intention was truly to do beta testing and keep the number of users down.

The Yahoo 360 invitation spree was announced very loudly and the invites were freely flowing from the start. It appeared to me more like a marketing scheme to manufacture hype from perceived exclusiveness and prestige, than a beta test. I didn't get the impression of a slow rollout to fix bugs at all, but more of a ruse to use the blogosphere to generate buzz and spread the word.

kwc:

Well, I've already encountered a bug or two, so my guess is that Yahoo! is both doing a bit of marketing and a little bit of bug fixing at the same time. It also appears that there is some more functionality that they want to put into the system while its still under beta.

It was clear that early on GMail was having growing pains, which justified the invite system, but once invites started coming faster than they could be given away ("50 invites"), it transitioned into complete gimmick.

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