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Category: Yahoo

January 31, 2007

Flickr/Yahoo! account $#!tstorm

Flickr made a big announcement that the countdown to the single sign-on has started: in other words, away with your 'old skool' Flickr login and welcome to the world of Yahoo! integrated logins. This has produced a very active thread in the Flickr forums. It's funny to see actions of near-surprise, given that this was foreshadowed when Flickr was originally bought by Yahoo. But more than the feigned shock, this has been interesting study for me as to why some people are reacting so negatively. It takes me back to an older entry where I discuss my own personal theory on megaservices attempting to do public community sites:

... my Google and my Yahoo identities are too personal to give away in a community service. Google/Yahoo identities are tied to e-mail, search history, calendars, and more. If you publicly reveal that identity you at least open yourself up to more spam and at worst invite identity theft of a much larger scale: determined individuals can figure out who I am from my Flickr account, but that's because I chose to tie my Flickr account to my overall 'kwc' moniker. It's related to danah boyd's mention of managing social contexts, e.g. teens don't necessarily want to hang out in the same social space as their parents (related: MySpace is drawing older visitors, study finds).

There is also a technological corollaries to this. My "home page" for Google is private-facing while my "home page" for Flickr is public facing. A company managing your private identity has to have less lax login procedures: Flickr can keep you signed in for weeks, Yahoo needs to sign you out almost immediately. There is also screen-handle assignment: I can be 'kwc' on Flickr, due to the smaller user population, but there is no way I would ever be able to get that for Yahoo.

So, what is the point of all this pontificating? To go back to the original question, I do think big companies storing your private data can successfully create new public community services, but they have to create separated sandboxes for these services. They have to allow 'alter egos', perhaps many, so that you can remain in control of your privacy. This is what they effectively do when these large companies acquire community services, but sometimes attempt ruin the whole deal, e.g. Yahoo's announcing they will merge Flickr accounts with Yahoo! accounts. Arguably, this is what Google did with Orkut, but Orkut couldn't scale to meet demand.

I thought there was a tad bit of wisdom there -- after all, Google's Picasa Web albums now allows you to create an alterego URL for sharing your photos. But I think I was wrong, at least in the case of anything to do with Yahoo. Reading through the thread, it basically boils down to: Yahoo... isn't... cool.

That's a bit of an oversimplification, but a lot of it boils down to the fact that Yahoo is a bad brand and some Flickrati don't want to be associated with it. Flickr, after all, is a high mark of Web 2.0 brand coolness: Apple may own the vowel 'i', but Flickr has caused countless sites to disown 'e'. But this changes everything. You now have Thomas Hawk of Zooomr (a Flickr clone in both design and vowel omission) not-so-subtly trying to poach Flickr members in Flickr's own forums.

The fact is, Flickr did just about everything right*, but the bad brand experience of Yahoo outweighs this. In other words, Yahoo has done plenty to make its brand a pariah. Many in the Flickr forums think a Yahoo ID means that they have to re-login everytime they open their browser. Many also think that their Flickr accounts are going to be deleted for inactivity the same way other Yahoo properties do. But there's actually no difference with this transition: the Flickr team changed nothing other than requiring a Yahoo login ID. You can even use one Yahoo account to login to Flickr and then login with a different Yahoo ID, all the while staying logged into the Flickr (for those worried about their Flickr identity being tied to their more private data). But still, the Y! merger makes Yahoo's bad brand experience transitive.

This isn't to say that if you were to substitute Google for Yahoo you wouldn't have the typical "X is evil" comments, but there are least several comments in the thread that indicate that this only matters to them because Yahoo sucks in comparison to Google. I feel a bit sorry for Yahoo. They acquire many companies I like (Flickr, del.icio.us, MyBlogLog), they release cool projects like the Creative Commons Search, and they have interesting bloggers like Jeremy Zawodny, Tom Coates, and (briefly) Simon Willison. But then you read scathing articles in Wired on their CEO and you feel sorry for the individuals that do good work at a company that doesn't have it all together.

Anyway, my take on this was to extend my Flickr Pro membership 2 more years. It was actually due to expire when the switch was going to be thrown, but I've liked the acquisition by Yahoo. I doubt that unlimited uploads would have occurred if Flickr was still a small company. I also suspect that there would have been a lot more "Flickr is having a massage" messages. Unlike many other sites, Flickr provides a public API so that I can walk away with my data whenever I please.

* Flickr did also announce a 3000 contact limit at 75 tag limit, all in the name of performance. The contact limit only affects 300/6,000,000 of their user base, but arbitrary limits always come off as... arbitrary.

April 5, 2006

Why relate?

Google recently launched Google related links to compete with Yahoo's Y!Q for publishers. Both provide you an automated mechanism for inserting "related" links into your own Web site. I don't get it. Let me start off with an example of a human-authored attempt to incorporate related links (from Wikipedia's April 1, 2006 article, but just about any Wikipedia article will do):

Slashdot incorporated a pink "OMG!!! Ponies!!!" theme [1] at 00:00 UTC. This girlish theme is in stark contrast for a techie website believed to be mostly frequented by male nerds.

The only related links in that sentence important to understanding the subject (link "[1]") were Slashdot and OMG, but there are plenty of other 'related' links to Wikipedia entries about pink, girlish, male, nerds, contrast and Web sites -- great if your goal is to spend three hours on Wikipedia exploring the interconnectedness of entries, but not much more.

A link is a way for someone to leave your page. With either Google Related or Y!Q, you, as a publisher, are saying that you want to insert more ways for a visitor to get the heck out, that the fire marshal has directed visitors to proceed to the nearest related link safety exit in a calm and collected manner.

I use a more profitable system for saying, "Get the heck out": ads. A large percentage of the entries on this site are crap or have only short-term relevance. My entry about Bootcamp won't matter for long, but many more people will read it a year from now because of search engines. I'm too lazy to keep older blog entries relevant and I don't want to delete part of my historical record, so I review older entries from time to time and place my ad exit signs if I think that the entry won't age well... or if I think I can make a buck :).

Ads are just as crappy as related links, but older entries are mostly compost and you can't really crap on crap. At least Google is better incentivized to make ads more relevant. As a publisher, masking the smell with a Google Adsense check helps and there is one good that comes of it all: you can buy fancy new toys to blog about ;).

November 7, 2005

Yahoo and TiVo

I just setup Yahoo TV to work with my TiVo, which restores some of the usefulness of My Yahoo homepage. I can now click on any program in the Yahoo TV listings and have it record on my TiVo. It was surprisingly easy to setup and Yahoo even detected that my TiVo had a different schedule listing and offered to switch to that. About the only hiccup was that I have two Series 2 TiVos -- one in Berkeley and one in Mountain View -- and it isn't quite smart enough to deal with that oddity seamlessly. It would be nice if I could set my Mountain View TiVo as my default TiVo and if I could also easily switch between Mountain View and Berkeley channel lineups (or have Yahoo manage the difference).

November 4, 2005

Yahoo Maps (beta) and Local Events

The Local Events Browser mashup is a nice demo of the new Yahoo Maps beta. It helped me find out about the "Gross, Gruesome, and Gothic" exhibit (10/1 - 3/12) over at the Cartoon Art Museum (I keep meaning to go there sometime). It is also a good visualization of how lame Peninsula life can be: zoom out a bit and the Peninsula looks like the eye of the hurricane, the perfect nothing calm surrounded by the torrent of SF, Berkeley, Oakland, and even San Jose.

September 20, 2005

Food thoughts

Wandering the Yahoo! cafeteria, it seems to be a less cool Google cafeteria. The Y! cafeteria has some nice things, but you get them for free at Google.

They were out of coffee.

September 15, 2005

A search with no 'enter'

Yahoo has launched Instant Search, it's attempt to one-up Google Suggest. Instead of trying to autocomplete your search terms for you, the top search result appears for you as you type, i.e. you don't hit enter or click 'search.' I can see this approach solving a lot of usability problems for Web search for the average user (where average user is probably not someone reading this blog). According to Nielsen, 40% of the search population is not search literate, which he demonstrated by showing a video of an example user in this 40% attempting to do a search query. The number of different ways other than the correct way the user tried was impressive, though understandable.

The elimination of one the search steps should be beneficial to the 40% crowd. Also, this could be merged with a Google Suggest-like autocomplete -- the autocomplete to speed text entry and reduce spelling errors, and the instant search to eliminate problems with clicking the correct button or typing the correct key.

As currently implemented, though, the Y! Instant Search isn't ready to help that many people. The number of queries for which there is an actually instant search result is very small, so small that you have to adapt their examples searches to figure what works. I see this as a big impediment to my general use because the instant search is just slow enough that it's hard to tell whether the instant search is still being fetched or there is no instant search result. Also, I find the general Yahoo! Search results page (the page you get if you do click 'search') extremely annoying. On my laptop screen the top search result isn't even fully visible without scrolling down due to all the ads at the top. A search engine that places most of its results 'below the fold' is rather worthless.

June 29, 2005

Yahoo's retort to my previous post

A day after I posted about Google's personalized search launch, I now find myself demo-ing Yahoo's "My Web 2.0 BETA"* (the logo for which tips its hat to the Flickr folks).

In terms of features, Yahoo's response is to see Google's personalization + search history and add in social bookmarking (del.icio.us-like) and social networks (Yahoo 360). This is an impressive array of functionality, but does an impressive feature list make for an impressive experience? Review in the extended.

Continue reading "Yahoo's retort to my previous post" »

April 12, 2005

Talk: Recent Innovations in Search and Other Ways of Finding Information

Peter Norvig, Google; Ken Norton, Yahoo!; Mark Fletcher, Bloglines/Ask Jeeves; Udi Manber, A9; Jakob Nielsen, NN Group

I went with bp and Neil to a BayCHI talk on "Recent Innovations in Search." I agree with bp's sentiment -- there were some interesting moments, but the talk was short on revelations or insights. I guess that is to be expected as the title of the talk is past focused ("Recent Innovations") rather than future focused ("Future Innovations"); it's hard to believe that the panelists would give away yet unrevealed technologies they were working on. I'm going to try and save as much effort as possible, given that bp posted his notes. In fact, as I am going to crib from his notes, or just omit what he already has, you should just go read them instead.

Continue reading "Talk: Recent Innovations in Search and Other Ways of Finding Information" »

April 4, 2005

Yahoo term extraction examples

I was curious to see how well the new Yahoo term extraction API would work, so I coded up a quick script to get some results on my most recent blog entries. I was hoping that this api might make it easier to write something to go auto-tag all my previous entries or otherwise allow me to add some interesting bit of info to these pages, but I'm not so sure. You can see the samples in the extended entry as well as python code for doing it yourself.

Continue reading "Yahoo term extraction examples" »

March 31, 2005

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.

March 21, 2005

Flickrhoo

I'm more worried about the recent acquisition of Flickr by Yahoo! than I was about Bloglines being bought by Ask Jeeves. Both are great tools that are on my most-frequently-used list*, but my perception is that Yahoo! is more capable of screwing up their acquisition considering that everything they've bought in the past looks Yahoo-like, which is to say that everything they've touched has acquired the bad aesthetics and UI of Yahoo! proper -- anybody know of counter-examples to assuage my fears?

With the recent Flickr outages, though, perhaps the Y! infrastructure will be a plus, and I'm sure my friends over at NetApp are looking forward to an increased storage demand from Y!.

FlickrBlog

* Actually using Chameleon, Josh's extension to Bloglines. Try it out. It's great.

June 25, 2004

Y! Maps got Wi-Fi

In the never-ending battle between Yahoo and MapQuest, I now give the edge to Yahoo, which is including Wi-Fi hotspot locations on their maps:
- Mountain View

It is unclear to me how they are getting this data -- you won't find your neighbor's access point listed on it, and some retail locations I know of are missing (Dana Street). They do have every Starbucks and McDonald's listed (sometimes twice), along with apartment complexes, miscellaneous stores (Borders, Apple) and coffee shops.

This is good advertising for those retail chains and apartment complexes. It also means that the next time I visit Boston I won't have to walk up and down Newbury Street with my signal strength indicator trying to find a place to drink coffee :) (Boston Wi-Fi map).

(via asa)

June 15, 2004

A little late

Yahoo! upgraded my storage to 100MB (perhaps someone should tell them that this is less than 1GB), and they also mucked around with the interface ever-so-slightly. Its still mish-mashed and cluttered, but they got rid of the ugly bezelled buttons of the previous incarnation. The interface is also still mean-spirited: instead of taking you directly to your inbox, as any remotely intelligent e-mail client would, it still takes you to a welcome page with a big colorful ad. I also notice that they have a 'Search Mail' button; I don't know if this is new, or if I am noticing it for the first time. I'm not sure why they would choose to put the search mail functionality on a separate page, but leave a "Search the Web" box on every page, unless they're that desperate to steal searches from Google.