Thursday, September 03, 2009

Yahoo Tests Microblogging Service

Source: Mediapost (Online Media Daily)
by Mark Walsh

In its latest effort to catch up in social networking, Yahoo has quietly introduced a microblogging service that looks like its answer to Twitter. An English-language version of the offering dubbed Yahoo Meme was launched in alpha this week following the rollout of versions in Spanish and Portuguese in recent months, according to TechCrunch.

The service lets users post videos, photos and other content accompanied by short descriptions and create a comment thread beneath each entry. People can also follow others on Yahoo Meme, as with Twitter and Tumbler, and track their posts through a personal dashboard. Users can also "repost" anyone's entries to their own meme.

Yahoo explains in the "About" section of the site that Meme is intended to let people quickly and easily share content without having to be part of any specific social network. (Although you do have to be registered on Yahoo.) The company also believes it has ideas on how to do these things "in better ways than what we see on other sites."

TechCrunch, however, was not impressed after testing the service, saying it "seems lacking in its features and its potential to surpass its competitors." Both TechCrunch and paidContent point out that Yahoo has a spotty track record with social networking, having shuttered projects like Yahoo Mash and SpotM in India less than a year after its launch.

That's not to mention the closing of Yahoo 360 in May, and Yahoo in April announcing plans to pull the plug on GeoCities, the forerunner of sites like Facebook and MySpace that Yahoo acquired a decade ago for $3.6 billion. (At least the company isn't still throwing around that kind of money on attempts to gain ground in social media.)

With Twitter established as the Internet's social wire service, and Facebook in hot pursuit, Yahoo trying to create its own microblogging alternative looks like another quixotic effort in the social space. Has anyone been clamoring for Yahoo to build a Twitter-killer?

The biggest advantage that a service like Yahoo Meme could have over Twitter is reliability. Twitter has become notorious for frequent service outages, with its "Fail Whale" graphic, appearing whenever the site is overloaded, emerging as the company's unofficial logo.

If nothing else, Yahoo has shown it can handle major traffic spikes, as when news of Michael Jackson broke and the Web portal stayed up and running as other sites such as Google and Twitter buckled under the surge in volume. TechCrunch reported Wednesday that Twitter had hired ex-Google exec and Feedburner founder Dick Costolo as COO, presumably to help tackle its downtime issues.

If only Yahoo could hire a Mr. Fix-It for its social networking woes.

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