February 19, 2004
Why hasn't Yahoo! gotten on the social software bandwagon?
It seems like Yahoo! has everything that Orkut and the rest are trying to get and more. Their profiles are system-wide, they have a dating site, a job-finding site and a community builder and a buttload of users. They also have the start of a friends list in their instant messenger's buddy list and address book.
They also have a lot of stuff that the other sites don't, like email, the aforementioned instant messaging, GeoCities, and a lot more. All of these tools are mature, except for the member profiles, which don't seem to integrate with any of their tools.
So what could a Yahoo! do with all that? The first is to integrate friend lists in with the existing tools. Show people's friends' on their profiles, allow them to add friends from the address book and instant messenger lists. The important thing to notice there is that the address book and IM shouldn't be directly linked to the friend lists. There's bound to be people on both lists that you don't care for.
Then they could start rolling the services back into the user profiles. List the Yahoo! Groups that a person is a member of. List a link to their HotJobs résumé on the site. Link them to their personal ad. Let them search their friends network. Let them talk to their friends network.
So to reiterate the title of this post, why hasn't Yahoo! gotten on the social software bandwagon?
The first possible reason is what Warren Ellis said about Orkut:
It requests your business profile at the same time as it's asking you where you like to be fingered. Some people might be uncomfortable with linking their personal ad and their résumé.
I think the bigger reason is a business reason. Look at how each of these Yahoo! sites makes money. On the personal ads, they charge you to contact people you're interested in. On HotJobs, they charge you to list jobs. They charge you to put in place that link between you and someone else.
Would people pay for that link when they can see that they have a mutual friend? Wouldn't a person just email their friend and say "that person is cute, can you send me their email address?" Suddenly Yahoo! could be shutting down that revenue stream and replacing it with what? Sure Friendster has $13 Million in VC, but their business plan is still pretty nebulous.
I guess if Yahoo! is going to become a social software platform, the first thing they would need to figure out is what's in it for them?
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