Yahoo is doubling down on its bets on social networking, but is doing so by effectively outsourcing its social efforts to Facebook. The web portal this week is launching enhanced Facebook integration, along with a revamped personal profile feature called Yahoo Pulse, and also recently announced the addition of new Google Buzz-style social features in the company’s email service called Yahoo Updates. The new Facebook features are the result of an agreement that Yahoo signed with the social network in December to use what was then called Facebook Connect (now known as the Open Graph protocol).
The new features integrate Facebook status updates and activity streams into the customized user pages at Yahoo, including the home page and Yahoo Mail. Users can also share content on Facebook from any of the Yahoo content sites such as its sports hub, entertainment hub, etc. In addition, the site’s personal profile pages are now known as Yahoo Pulse, and the company says they will give users more control over how and where they share their content. Yahoo has been bending over backwards to talk about its new sharing features, including its Google Buzz-style social integration for email, hoping to avoid some of the privacy pain that Facebook and Google have encountered.
While the company no doubt hopes that its new features will encourage more people who visit the site to stay longer, they are also a tacit admission that Facebook has won the social race — one that Yahoo has not really been a factor in for some time. In a similar way, Yahoo has recently outsourced many of its existing services to others, including a deal with Match.com to handle the personals business and a partnership with Nokia for mobile email, not to mention the biggest outsourcing move of all: namely, outsourcing its entire search business to Microsoft.
In the final blow for Yahoo, a recent ranking of most-visited sites by Google showed Facebook as the clear winner, with 540 million monthly unique visitors, and Yahoo at No. 2, with 490 million. Whether integrating Facebook sharing and activity streams will improve Yahoo’s position or simply accelerate the current downward trend for the site remains to be seen. The company appears to want to become a portal for the social web in the same sense that it used to be a portal for Web 1.0. — but half a billion users seem to have decided that they already have a portal for the social web, and it’s called Facebook.
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