Yahoo gets more social with Mail, search updates

New additions to Yahoo Mail, Messenger, and search results are designed to give people social-networking outlets within the Yahoo network.

Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.
Tom Krazit
3 min read
Yahoo Messenger, along with several other core products, are looking more and more social every day. Yahoo

SUNNYVALE, Calif.--Yahoo increased the social graces of its core products Monday, with a nod to its new home page and a declaration that it's not done with search just yet.

Popular Yahoo products such as Mail and Messenger will soon grow more social, allowing users to update their status, share photos with friends, and initiate video calls. In addition, Yahoo Search is about to get a new results page that can connect searchers directly to the Web content they seek without leaving the results page.

"Our user base grows when things are simpler and more delightful," said Elisa Steele, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Yahoo. The idea is twofold: to attract more people who are not already familiar with Yahoo's content and to entice those who already use products like Yahoo Mail to spend more time on the site. Either way, that's more eyeballs for advertisers.

To that effect, Yahoo hopes to tap into the popularity of social networking by redesigning Yahoo Mail--the leading e-mail service in the world--to feature status updates, links to social content like photo albums, and additional applications such as Evite. The new home page allows Yahoo members to update their status and broadcast that within the Yahoo network, and that box will also be added to the Mail and Messenger experiences.

At the moment, however, those obsessed with social networking are likely already hooked up with the likes of Facebook and Twitter. The status updates that are available through the top of the Yahoo home page and Mail page will only broadcast to those who you've connected with via Yahoo profiles, but at some point Yahoo wants to link that status update box to outside services to allow you to update your status once and broadcast it to multiple networks, said Tapan Bhat, senior vice president of integrated consumer experiences.

Still, there's still an awful lot of people who haven't taken the Twitter plunge, said Bryan Lamkin, senior vice president of applications products. Yahoo wants to have it both ways: to provide a social outlet for Yahoo users who haven't signed up for things like Twitter and to give those Yahoo users already hooked into other social networks a chance to run everything through Yahoo.

And although Yahoo plans to offload its search business to Microsoft at some point over the next several years, it demonstrated a new search results page that can display search results from specific sites that are related to the query. For example, searches for queries such as "how to make sushi" return Wikipedia and eHow links on the left hand side of the page, and searches for people link to results gathered from Facebook or Twitter.

"Searching for people has been Google's domain. We're going to take that away from them," said Larry Cornett, vice president of search products and design.

Many people forget that although Microsoft is set to take over on the back end, Yahoo will retain control of how Bing-powered results are presented on Yahoo pages, said Prabhakar Raghavan, senior vice president of Yahoo Labs and search strategy. That means the company will continue to tweak the front-end experience, and from that standpoint could really be considered a competitor of Bing.

"We are not a version of Bing...What we do with (search results), how we paint it, that's entirely up to us," Raghavan said.

Corrected at 2:45 p.m. PDT with the correct spelling of search executive Larry Cornett's name.