Yahoo to focus on social search, user content

Yahoo will focus in coming years on user-generated content, social search and emerging technologies, senior executives told financial analysts.

In the coming years Yahoo will focus on seeking and adopting new technologies, incorporating user contributions into its services and sites, and extending its reach beyond the PC.

That was the main message from senior executives who spoke during the company's meeting with financial analysts Wednesday.

"You're starting to look today at what we consider the next Yahoo," said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Terry Semel.

Among the company's "big bets" for the coming years is to actively employ emerging technologies, as it is doing with AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML), Semel said.

Likewise, Yahoo will be bold about embracing new trends, such as social media, where online companies like Yahoo let users create and submit content, such as videos and blog entries, and participate in categorizing content with tags and labels, he said.

Yahoo will continue to seek ways to diversify its revenue streams in online advertising by improving its ad systems' ability to link ads with users, and to that end it recently unveiled improvements to its paid search platform, he said.

Moreover, the company is intensely involved in delivering services via non-PC devices, such as mobile devices, Semel said.

The media group, which includes Yahoo's Web sites and services about music, games, movies, TV, news, weather, sports and health, is boosting its systems infrastructure to gain more scale and flexibility, said Lloyd Braun, the group's chief.

For example, the media group is building what he called "an aggregation system" to consolidate all its content feeds and deliver that content in a more horizontal way, he said. "We'll present our content ... wherever it's relevant, regardless of the site," Braun said.

Braun's group is also working on simplifying and standardizing its advertising formats so that they are consistent across its different Web sites, which he believes will help spur sales.

In the area of video content, Yahoo is developing what he called an "inline video player" that will allow the media group to offer video content and ads inside a page with a consistent look-and-feel, Braun said.

The media group is also busy building what he called publishing tools to allow users, such as bloggers, to post content directly into the media group's Web sites.

Braun said that users of Yahoo Finance will soon see improved financial graphs on the site, which came under fire from critics who perceived it as falling behind after rival Google launched a similar site recently with more advanced and dynamic graphs.

In the area of search, where many feel Yahoo is losing the battle to Google, Yahoo will dive head first into social search, letting users participate in the discovery, categorization and sharing of indexed Web sites, said Jeff Weiner, Yahoo's senior vice president of search.

While search is currently focused on indexing and retrieving Web documents, the future of the market lies on tapping the knowledge and information that people possess and that isn't found on Web pages, Weiner said.

"As valuable and essential as Web search is to all of us today, we're in the threshold of another shift," he said. "There are billions of people on the planet that possess in theory trillions of knowledge artifacts. How do we start to get at that knowledge?"

The answer is in social bookmarking, such as Yahoo's del.icio.us service, which lets users save, share and annotate Web page links, in social media sites, such as Yahoo's Flickr, where users can store, label and share photos, and in search engines that let users participate in solving queries, such as Yahoo Answers, where users can post and answer each other's questions, he said.

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Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service
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