Okay, Yahoo may have 600 million users and insane amounts of traffic. But they've become a bit stagnant, not attracting as many new users as they could, and recently lost the second-place search spot (a highly lucrative market, as first-place Google will tell you) to Microsoft's Bing, a relative upstart. It's been time for a change for a while. So Chief Product Officer Blake Irving today announced an ambitious three-year plan to update pretty much every service Yahoo offers--plus some new ones.
First up, Yahoo Mail. Yahoo's email service is very popular, though, again, not as buzzed-about as, say, Gmail. And, in what's becoming a refrain, both Google and Microsoft have jumped past Yahoo in features and interface. Gmail is continually updating--the most recent being the excellent Priority Inbox--and Microsoft announced a completely redesigned, frankly beautiful and modern-looking version of Windows Live Hotmail just a few months ago. So what does Yahoo have to offer?
There's a new interface, which looks suspiciously similar to Gmail, right down to the looks of the columns and the pop-up chat bubbles. Like Gmail and Hotmail, it also incorporates a few media elements as well, like video and photo sharing, as well as SMS texting. Yahoo Mail does let you update Twitter and Facebook from within the web app, which is new, and Yahoo claims its spam filtering system is second to none.
Yahoo search is also seeing an update, with a prettier interface and new, rich search results for entertainment and news queries. Yahoo wasn't forthcoming about too many of the details--will there be real-time updates?--but I like the look of the new page, with commonly used resources (Wikipedia, IMDb) consolidated on the left-hand column.
Yahoo TV, a widget-like connected TV platform that gives access to BlockBuster, CBS, Pandora, and a few others, will be expanding. Yahoo is partnering with Toshiba for a line of Yahoo-embedded connected TVs. It's not a new idea, and though the price point is likely to be lower than, say, Sony Bravia TVs embedded with Google TV, it's also far less capable and ambitious.
Other tidbits include Twitter integration across the Yahoo platform, and a new Yahoo iPad app.
These new projects will be rolling out over the next few months as they're completed. All in all, they look fine--existing Yahoo users are sure to be pleased--but I'm not seeing a whole lot that can't already be found elsewhere. Yahoo is aiming high, hoping for a 50-100% increase in users over the next three years, and I'm not convinced that these services are going to get them that.