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November 17, 2006

Yahoo! Looking To Social Acquisitions

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Something has lit a fire from under Yahoo! The company has announced three new acquisitions and two product upgrades all within 24-hours. Don’t they know Friday is Google’s day for announcements? I mean, seriously. Someone please show Terry Semel the memo.

Here’s a breakdown of what they bought and what you get:

Acquisitions:

  • Bix – There were a lot of raised eyebrows yesterday when it was revealed Yahoo! had acquired online contest and karaoke site Bix. Was Yahoo! crazy? What interest does Yahoo! have in a site that is most known for their online karaoke competitions? Well, for one, that little karaoke site has brought in 1 million unique visitors in its three months of existence, and second, it may not be the technology Yahoo! was interested in.

    With the company, Yahoo! also acquires Blix CEO Mike Speiser – described by TechCrunch as a "seasonal social media man" – to take over product management responsibilities for Yahoo! Groups, Photos and 360. Is Yahoo! hoping to capitalize on Speiser’s know-how to rev up the quality of their social launches? It’s a theory.

  • MyBlogLog – The only Yahoo-acquired start-up I’d previously heard of, MyBlogLog is a blog community and analytics tool that lets bloggers and their readership learn more about each other (Aw). According to TechCrunch, Yahoo! was said to have paid $10 million for this one. Smart?
  • Kenet Woks – GigaOm’s Katie Fehrenbacher breaks the news that Yahoo! finally confirmed their acquisition of Swedish mobile company KenetWorks that was rumored to have taken place last month. Yahoo! believes the acquisition will help them to "build [their] leadership in mobile services…and connect consumers with the people and information they care about" which really does seem to be their agenda lately.

    Yahoo!’s not taking the Google-route with mobile. Instead of using it to expand their search, they’re really using it to strengthen their portal and to provide users with genuine-mobile features, like ringtones and wallpapers. This acquisition should help them continue that.

Upgrades

  • Yahoo! Answers Gets New Push – Fans of Yahoo! Answers will enjoy the system upgrades debuted today. Previously, searchers could view Yahoo! Answer questions at the bottom of their SERP, but as of today they will see the question and an excerpt of the "best answer".

    I played around with it a bit looking for the best pumpkin pie recipe (you’re starting to see a pattern here, aren’t you?), and I admit it’s perhaps interesting on open-ended queries. It’s nice to get a preview of the answer before you commit to a click. I don’t see myself ever using it, but I know people that would.

    (Kind of interesting, Phil Lenssen notes that Yahoo! Answers is Yahoo! Clever in Germany. Who knew?)

  • Yahoo Maps Released From Beta — Yahoo! Maps has been officially released from beta and integrated within Local. Yahoo! also rolled out street-level maps for Europe and a host of other improvements with the upgrade. It looks fun and user-friendly, but to be honest, Flash apps turn me off.

Whew. Did you catch all that?

The upgrades are cool, but it’s the acquisitions that are particularly interesting to me. Its obvious Yahoo! is trying to position itself as THE place for user-generated content, and I think that’s a smart move for them. Yahoo! users have a history of engagement with the Yahoo! portal. Yahoo! Answers has been hugely successes and though it’s estimated this will soon change, Yahoo.com is still the most trafficked site on the Web.

Google may know how to monetize their property, but Yahoo! understands their audience. They know why they visit Yahoo! and Yahoo! has responded by giving them what they want – better social features. And to Yahoo!’s credit, this extends both on and off the traditional Web. On the Web they get better integration of Answers in their SERP, and on mobile they get access to the fun stuff Google isn’t concerned with, like ringtones and funky wallpaper. You have to give it to Yahoo!, they’ve decided where they want to go and it looks like they’re being active about trying to get there. They’ve also got us not talking about Google on a Friday. That’s an accomplishment in itself.

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