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Yahoo Newsroom: Yet another spin on the newsfeed

Borrowing from sites like Tumblr and Twitter, Yahoo is betting on creating "community-powered media."

The Yahoo app is now known as Yahoo Newsroom.

Yahoo

Yahoo wants a better social life.

The internet pioneer rebranded its Yahoo app on Tuesday, changing the name to Yahoo Newsroom and becoming a place where people can form groups and enter discussions based on topics.

The topics are categorized as Vibes and can be as general as World News or as specific as certain events, such as Hoboken Train Crash. The app's algorithm is also supposed to learn about you based on the articles you click on and the Vibes you interact with, in the hope that Yahoo Newsroom will eventually automatically cater to your news interests.

Users can also contribute to existing Vibes, with community contributions considered a major aspect of the experience, Dave Bottoms, vice president of Yahoo Media Experiences, said in an interview.

With Likes and Reposts, Yahoo Newsroom takes notes from Twitter, which for many functions as a newsfeed, as well as from Tumblr, the blogging website Yahoo bought for $1.1 billion in 2013.

"As a team, the core platform for us is empowering the community," Bottoms said. "Tumblr is one of the few networks that put the community first ahead of the individual."

Once a leading pioneer of the internet, Yahoo has struggled to hold onto its prominence up against younger websites like Google and Facebook. Verizon signed a deal in July to buy Yahoo for $4.83 billion, with the expectation of merging it with AOL, another internet veteran that's seen better days.

Part of Yahoo's rebranding is a new focus on the website as a news resource.

Yahoo says the name change will prevent people from expecting the app to offer all of Yahoo's features.

Screenshot by Alfred Ng/CNET

Bottoms called Yahoo Newsroom "community-powered media" but offered assurances that there would be checks in place to prevent hoax articles and spam from surfacing to the top of people's feeds.

Facebook has struggled with those pitfalls. When the social media giant dropped its human moderators in late August and pushed for a similar community-driven newsfeed mixed with its algorithm, a fake story about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly appeared at the top of the social network's Trending Topics within two days.

This won't happen with Yahoo Newsroom, Simon Khalaf, senior vice president of Yahoo's Publisher Products said. He pointed out that unlike Facebook, Yahoo Newsroom is a dedicated news app, without posts from friends and family to congest the feed.

"The voice of the community is a very strong signal, but it's not the only signal," Khalaf said.

For the rest, he's depending on the algorithm to rank stories based on their sources, compile posts with the same links and weed out any fake news.

The algorithm is supposed to push stories up that have the most reactions, while looking for stories users might be interested in based on articles they've interacted with in the past.

The company decided to rename its app in part due to apparent confusion from users. Many who installed the app assumed they were getting the entire package with Yahoo -- email, finances and fantasy sports, along with the news.

Before the rebranding, the Yahoo app did feature only news and prompted people to download separate apps for features like email and messaging.

"The Yahoo app was a little bit confusing to users to some extent," Bottoms said.

Correction, 6:32 a.m. PT: The status of Verizon's purchase of Yahoo has been fixed.