Yahoo introduces features to make its services more social

Guynn is a Times staff writer.

Yahoo Inc. is getting more open and more social.

The Internet giant said Monday that it was rolling out features designed to make its e-mail service and other properties more like popular social networking sites Facebook and MySpace.

The features, more than a year in the making, are the brainchild of Yahoo Chief Executive Jerry Yang, who previewed them in a keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

Since becoming CEO in June 2007, Yang pushed Yahoo to open up to outside content and to tap into the underlying social connections in its properties.

Yahoo, which is weathering a wrenching downturn including layoffs that began last week, hopes to turn the tide with new features that help its 275 million e-mail users form bonds with friends, colleagues and family to share information and track one another’s activities.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., company is also opening its e-mail service to features created by other companies such as online movie site Flixster.


The strategy will outlast Yang, who is stepping down once his successor is found. That search is in its early stages, with several candidates being considered. A final decision is expected early next year.

One candidate, Arun Sarin, the former head of Vodafone, has decided not to pursue the post, the Financial Times reported Monday.

Ash Patel, executive vice president of the audience products division, said Monday that it took Yahoo nearly a year to turn Yang’s openness vision into reality because of the sheer number of users and products the company had.

“We are deliberate in how we roll out features,” Patel said.

Yahoo plans to incorporate the new features into its overhauled home page, its toolbar for browsing the Web and personalized home pages. What isn’t clear is how these new features will help Yahoo make more money from its giant Web audience.--