Yahoo often gets kicked around in insider tech circles as being a plodding goat-rodeo living off past glory. But today it sent an encouraging signal that it realizes the ecosystem it lives in is no longer the one it dominated in the late ’90s–and that it’s ready to play in the new world.
Specifically, Yahoo announced that it is going to let people sign in to its network using their Facebook and Google IDs. Whether you want to comment on a news article, personalize a stock portfolio, track a Fantasy Sports league, or review a movie, you no longer have to use your Yahoo ID (or, worse, stop what you’re doing to sign up for one). If you’re already logged in to Facebook or Google, you’re in.
This makes sense. For the past few years, Yahoo has been talking about how it wants to be the number-one choice for advertisers. It’s been bulking up its content teams and offerings (most recently with the unveiling of its new sports magazine). But it’s also been announcing plans to dive further into social games, Groupon-like deals, and foursquare-style location information.
In other words, it wants to be everyone’s favorite lifestyle hub. And the more people it can get to play, the more attractive it becomes to advertisers.
But the single greatest barrier to getting users to come live in the Yahoo world is the front door. Force people to sign up for Yahoo IDs, and it’s like installing a bouncer. You lose a significant chunk of people who, these days, are more used to all-access passes. Let users glide on in with the sign-in system they’re already using, and you’ve instantly got more visitors–and more participation, which in turns builds ever richer content, which in turn attracts more users.
And indeed, the Yahoo corporate blog expressed this very sentiment in their announcement: “It’s our belief that by continuing to open up the Yahoo! network to third-party IDs, we can help more folks join in the fun and create exciting, more personalized and inclusive online experiences.”