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Yahoo Shortcuts: It's everywhere you want to blog

What do bloggers give up, and what does Yahoo gain, when they use Yahoo's new automatic link tool in Wordpress?

Yahoo recently launched an interesting tool for Wordpress bloggers: Yahoo Shortcuts. It's important, not so much for what it does but for the trend it indicates.

Yahoo Shortcuts will watch as you write, and tell you when it finds potential links.

But first, here is what it does: It's a plugin that people running Wordpress blogs can install for free. When it's installed on a Wordpress server, it monitors what the blog's author is writing, and lets the writer know that it has related links it can automatically insert. Locations get links to maps, products get links to prices, public companies get links to stock prices, and so on. For each potential link Yahoo finds, authors can determine if they want it, and if they do, if the link should be a pop-up box on mouse hover, or a picture-like "badge" that's embedded in the post like a picture. It's reminiscent of those annoying automatic Intellitxt advertising links you see on some sites, except it's not advertising per se, and it's not nearly as annoying.

The system also recommends Flickr images based on key words in the blog post, which makes it a really great tool if you want to add decent art to any post. The images all carry the photographer's credit and link to his or her Flickr archive.

Posts written with shortcuts can get Flickr photos (upper left) as well as pop-up Yahoo results, like maps.

My first take on Shortcuts is that it is very good utility--for Yahoo. All the links, with the exception of the Flickr photos, are branded by Yahoo and link to Yahoo services. That's not such a horrid thing, since the information in the pop-ups can be useful and since the author has approval rights on all links. But if you use this utility it does kind of make you Yahoo's play toy.

But like I said, from a Yahoo strategy perspective, it's smart. It puts Yahoo services and the brand in front of people who aren't actually engaged with Yahoo at all. This service is a great example of what publishers can do to fight back against the fragmentation of traffic on the Web. If users are going every which where to get information, the big publishers, like Yahoo will do well to follow them, by offering services that attach to the long tail of content.