Yahoo Heading Into the Wind

Now here’s an effectively ominous opening sentence. It’s never a good thing when one of the quotes of the CEO in an earnings report mentions “headwinds.” That’s Rob Hof, of Business Week, on yesterday’s news from Yahoo!

It’s the right lede. There were no surprises in the Q4 numbers, or in the news that Y! will shed 1000 jobs (7% of workforce). And perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Y! didn’t articulate any clear and convincing course to prosper amidst the headwinds.

Yahoo and OpenID

Yahoo implements OpenID… or does it? Read/Write Marshall asks the key questions.

Though there’s every reason to hope that today’s Yahoo! announcement will lead to ongoing, meaningful advocacy of OpenID by the company and then a future wherein Yahoo! sites accept OpenID from other providers – there’s also plenty of reason to be concerned that neither will occur and that Yahoo! interests are really only served by spreading the use of Yahoo! ID further around the web.

MP3 Player From Yahoo, Broadcasts From Austin

Yahoo has just released a new version of its browser-based MP3 player. Here’s how Mike Arrington described it: this is a very simple solution… it does not require any software on the PC beyond a browser. That’s a good thing.

It’s also very simple to put a playlist in a post: you just link to the MP3 files, include a very simple snippet of javascript, and when someone visits, they see the player. Since it does require javascript, I can’t use it here at WordPress.com, but you can hop over to my self-hosted WordPress blog to see a post using the Yahoo player.

The playlist comprises four of my favorite tracks from the second volume of KGSR’s Broadcasts CDs. KGSR is a radio station in Austin, Texas; it gets some great musicians into its studios, and the proceeds from the CDs go to great causes. The CDs sell out. I’m not sure when volume 2 did so, but I suspect that it was a long time ago, given that it came out in 1994.

The playlist starts with my favorite track from volume 2: Freedy Johnston doing “Bad Reputation” solo acoustic. It was the first version of the song I heard, and it spoiled me for the studio version. Then there’s a track each from Kirsty MacColl, Alejandro Escovedo, and Crowded House.

Time to Try Yahoo Music Again?

I don’t have much to do with Yahoo these days, apart from continuing to use my email there. (But emails related to this blog are best addressed to andrew at changingway dot org). In particular, I canceled my subscription to Yahoo! Music Unlimited a while ago.

Maybe there will be reason to take another look at Yahoo Music in 2008. I say that based on an excellent post/presentation by Ian Rogers, VP Video and Media Applications at Yahoo! (via Read/Write Richard). I’ll quote Ian on two of his main points.

  1. There is more opportunity in leveraging the scale of the Web than trying to create scarcity.
  2. We will do this together by creating a loosely-coupled value chain including users as value creators.

The strongest aspects of Ian’s post are his admission that he has in the past been part of the scarcity conspiracy, his use of concrete examples, and the position he’s writing from. To be specific about his concreteness, he develops some ideas on digital packaging and emphasizes open standards.

The weakest aspects are his overuse of the word leverage – but that’s a pet peeve of mine, and one that’s not widely shared – and the lack of detail of Yahoo’s plans – but perhaps it’s best to wait for specific features and betas than to comment on plans. So, Yahoo Music, bring it on, and try to charm me away from Rhapsody and the other music sites I use.

Email is Social!

Stop the presses at the NY Times! Or at least read the rather good post by Saul Hansell at the NYT’s BITS blog.

Google and Yahoo have come up with new and very similar plans to respond to the challenge from MySpace and Facebook: They hope to turn their e-mail systems and personalized home page services (iGoogle and MyYahoo) into social networks.

Web-based e-mail systems already contain much of what Facebook calls the social graph — the connections between people.

Let’s talk about Yahoo first. Fred Wilson estimates that Yahoo Mail, with 250 million users, is the largest social graph on the planet. But Yahoo’s plans to use this graph make Michael Arrington sad.

Yahoo’s Brad Garlinghouse is talking about creating yet-another-social-network around Yahoo mail… He says the project is called “Inbox 2.0″ internally… It makes me sad because it is absurd for Yahoo to keep launching new social networking products, almost monthly, without what appears to be any sort of high level strategic vision…

I mean, I follow these products for a living, and I can’t keep their strategies straight. Or even figure out if there is a strategy. If Inbox 2.0 is part of Yahoo’s big vision for the future, then tell us more than the bits about the news feed and profile pages. Tell us how it can change the entire company, as OpenSocial appears poised to do with Google.

I have to agree with Michael that a more coherent message is coming from Google. Recognizing Gmail as a social graph fits very well into OpenSocial. For much the same reason, I disagree with Saul when he opens his post with the advice that we ignore OpenSocial.

Other remarks from “usual suspect” blogs include: it’s about time that Yahoo and Google unlocked the social potential of their email user bases; what’s really at issue here are two concepts that Hansell… didn’t name explicitly… RSS and Attention Data; it would make more sense to focus on start pages than on email.

Then there are many good contributions to the conversation in the comments to Saul’s post, and to the other posts referenced above… But this post has gone on long enough already.

Yahoo Minus 360

Jerry Yang recently posted about where Yahoo is heading.

We’re placing our bets in three big multi-year objectives… 1. Become the starting point for the most consumers… 2. Become the must-buy for advertisers… 3. Deliver open, industry-leading platforms that attract the most publishers and developers…

Our new decision-making framework also informed what we’d no longer invest in. To start, we’ve de-emphasized our focus on subscription music in favor of ad-supported music, migrated Yahoo! Photos to Flickr, we intend to transition Yahoo! 360 to a more integrated Yahoo! “profile” experience, we’ve closed Yahoo! Podcasts.

Here’s a translation of each of those paragraphs:

I don’t think that anyone, least of all me, will miss my Y360 page.