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@ EconSM: Q&A: Jeff Weiner, EVP Network Division, Yahoo; Lighting Up Yahoo’s Social Connections

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yahooweinerLast week at the Web 2.0 Expo, Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) took the wraps off its new social initiative dubbed Yahoo! Open Strategy — but it’s not a social network! “The world doesn’t need another social network,” said Jeff Weiner, Network Division EVP of Yahoo, during a Q&A with ContentNext Co-Editor and EVP Staci Kramer at EconSM. Whether that’s true or not, Y!OS is not Yahoo! 360 redux (or so the company hopes). All in all, it’s rather Facebookish, as Weiner talked about leveraging Yahoo’s “social graph” and its unique data.

Consumers: So how will this change the user experience on Yahoo? Weiner: “Anecdotally, think of the last time you were on Facebook… everything you see on Facebook is cause you put it there.” This is compared to, where basically nothing is put there because the user wanted it ( is an exception). But don’t expect the Facebook model to replace Yahoo’s model, as Weiner insisted that the two systems aren’t mutually exclusive. A very clear change coming down the pike: Yahoo will move towards single user profiles (this seems pretty necessary to really build up the social experience), rather than its current fragmented system: “We have over 25 different profile experiences on” These include Mail, Chat, Groups, and several others.

Past failures: There are plenty of reasons why Yahoo 360 failed to take off. The product lacked a clear idea of what it wanted to be, and it was too Yahoo-focused, not drawing in content from elsewhere on the web. It also can be chalked up to Yahoo’s internal organization, which was previously broken up into too many silos, preventing any horizontal social experience.

The business rationale: All of this talk of getting more social is nice, and bloggers like to write about it, but how will this play to Wall St., which, in the event that Yahoo is a standalone company going forward, is mainly concerned about dollar signs. Weiner didn’t have a planned answer for this, and his vision for how Yahoo will profit sounded a tad Beaconish: ‘The company serving (the ads) can glean the intention to better serve that advertising. One of he challenges a lot of the social exchanges (is) it’s very difficult to abstract the intention… we are in strong position to understand the intention and monetize that intention.” Good luck with that.

If Yahoo were a restaurant: During the audience Q&A, Kara Swisher poked fun at the endless stream of product announcements that come out of Yahoo, many of which are good ideas, but lack coherence. She suggested that before long, Yahoo will likely open a chain of restaurants. When Weiner asked back what kind of restaurant the company would have, Kara shot back with (arguably the line of the day): “If Yahoo were a restaurant, they’d serve everything.”

Microsoft: This is the big question that matters, but no news made here, might as well save it for last: “I’m not going to be able to comment on any deal speculation.” Weiner did argue that Ballmer’s wielding a sword over the company’s head hasn’t distracted the company from its new initiative. Yang said as much as well during last week’s conference call.

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