Yahoo's rolling out a beta version to random users of its redesigned homepage, the single most valuable piece of real estate on the Web. (At least until Google puts ads on the front page.) When Jupiter was briefed about the strategy a month and a half ago, we talked about a couple things:
– Yahoo has a notion about Internet starting points or "front doors." In investor presos, it calls the homepage, MyYahoo, Mail, Search, and Mobile as those starting points. But in our more fine-grained discussion, UPDATED: we talked about the homepage, MyYahoo, the toolbar, and Yahoo Buzz
are the near-term focus points.
– I asked explicitly about Mail (which opens with a news/content pane, two tickers, a Web search bar, a rich media ad unit and six other ad/promotion/text ad units). I got the feeling that Yahoo is re-thinking what kind of a starting point role mail should play, and that its current content launchpad role might not be the way to go.
– Yahoo's always been correctly cautious about changing the homepage, and about integrating customization/personalization there. It can't risk alienating or disorienting its homepage users, and it's never gotten MyYahoo usage above 10-15%. (No one else has done better; widgets on social networks are the most promising customization technique we've seen.) Yahoo's strategy to teach its mainstream users to customize the homepage feels like it will leverage Buzz as a promotional vehicle.
– Key to "opening up" the homepage will be Yahoo's work with other serious companies. (This isn't about widgets and apps done in garages.) Yahoo will be very careful about what modules can show Yahoo.com: think eBay, e-mail, and established social media feeds first. I could see Hulu potentially, and other MSM (esp. entertainment news) feeds. And the social feeds will certainly show up in Mail.
– Yahoo still believes in editors, as well they should. 50 things go into the front page Today module a day, and there are a number of "relevance" engines that power them: Buzz, an optimization technology Yahoo doesn't talk much about, editors, and, eventually, some day, maybe, a social graph-tapping system TK.
I'd like to hear Yahoo say more about the other UPDATED
front doors starting points, and how they work together. I'm a portals guy — hey, I used to be an AOL apologist — and I think portals are in serious trouble: under threat from social networks as comm's and entertainment hubs, and decimated by Google.