Blog Post

AOL, Yahoo Will Add Life Streams to Their Popular Web Services

The growing popularity of Twitter and Facebook’s news feed functionality has made everyone embrace life streaming — essentially a way for us to broadcast our daily digital lives via photos, videos, postings and status updates — as a way to consume information. In a matter of months, expect both Yahoo (s YHOO) and AOL (s TWX) to come up with their own news feed offerings, likely to be embedded in their more popular web services.[digg=]

While Yahoo’s working on a life-streaming product called Yahoo Updates, AOL’s new offering, which takes a cue from Facebook Connect, is being called “Site Social” internally.Unlike Facebook or Twitter, which are taking advantage of their own social graphs, Yahoo is likely to introduce “life streaming” into its very popular email service. Other details about this service are yet to be revealed, but Yahoo has been working on making its email more social.

Similarly, AOL will leverage its instant messaging client installed base to introduce its own version of life streaming. Essentially, the new AIM client would adopt a tab-like structure where one of the tabs would be like your plain old AIM friends lists. A new tab will be used to life stream information that will come into the client from various sources.

This life-streaming technology is being based on the news feeds currently being offered on Bebo, a social network that AOL acquired for $850 million in cash last year. The social network, ICQ and AIM are now part of an AOL division called People’s Networks. AOL introduced a brand-new feed for Bebo last last year, and I’m guessing they’re using 30 million-plus AIM clients and another 35 million-odd ICQ clients to push these streams. David Liu, senior V-P and general manager at AOL’s People Networks, said in a briefing last week that details about this new service would emerge over the next few months.

AOL is planning to support Facebook Connect, Twitter and other sources (including Open Social). Liu said that the focus will be on content. Time Warner and AOL have a lot of content properties; the AOL life streams would help the companies focus on boosting their content discovery and sharing.
Whatever form AOL and Yahoo’s life-streaming efforts take, there’s no denying that the post-broadband era needs a different kind of media consumption paradigm.

27 Responses to “AOL, Yahoo Will Add Life Streams to Their Popular Web Services”

  1. wow, impressive.. it’s only taken 3-4 years for the major competitive consumer services to ape the NewsFeed.

    while it’s obvious that news feeds have been one of the biggest user experience innovations of the past 5 years (pioneered by LiveJournal, not Facebook actually), it’s already old news. the fact that it takes 3+ years and acquisitions for the other large portal battleships to turn about make it clear how far behind they really are. Google is the only one that’s even close to having a competitive offering, and they wouldn’t even be close if it weren’t for MySpace opting to use OpenSocial as part of its foundation.

    meanwhile, the train has already left the station on using social networks as identity mgmt systems. except that again, YHOO/MSFT/AOL and even GOOG are playing catchup about 1-3 years too late. even MySpace is moving faster than the rest of those folks. Google is barely even launching its social standard on its own properties (nothing on Gmail or YouTube yet, minimally on iGoogle even). and i STILL can’t create a basic friends list that’s portable to other 3rd-party services from my Gmail account. unless i’ve missed something, this is also true for Yahoo & MSFT on their mail systems.

    of course, no one has closed the loop yet on the 3rd leg of the stool: payments. when that happens, look for usage & monetization to explode.

    sorry this is a long rant in the comments. should be a blog post on my own site.

    anyway, good piece om…. but i think you’re not being critical enough of how late the major players are to the table. Arguably, YHOO, MSFT, & AOL have missed out on HUGE amounts of innovation & value by waiting to so long on using hosted email as a social networking platform. and even though Google has tried to play its hand well, the results do not look terribly promising thus far.

    as much as Facebook is criticized for lack of monetization, the rest of the big players should be criticized even more harshly for lack of vision, strategy, and execution on social platforms. Google gets a B- or C+, MSFT & AOL get Ds, and Yahoo gets a big fat F.

  2. Life streaming = a bit ‘old’ already…if my start up with zero external funding & 2.7 million visitors last month (this month, about 3.5) has had “friend activity feeds” which is what we’ve been calling them for about a year and a half…then AOL & Yahoo are both late to the party.

    While Yahoo *did* acquire mybloglog…does it have the “panache” of friendfeed? Nope, not according to most bloggers…while it has that functionality, it didn’t go on to do the whole “mybloglogging of Yahoo”…like flickr was supposed to do (eg, the “flickrization of Yahoo” from the 2005-2007 era, as I was ending my time there).

    Fast forward to today:
    AOL =…what’s TMZ got to do with it? Oh, right, that’s where the value is, in the stuff that doesn’t have the AOL name & people don’t think is *part* of AOL.
    Yahoo = disconnected pile of stuff, which in pieces is pretty cool, in sum, isn’t nearly as good as the parts.
    Facebook = only hot as long as they lose money…once they need to, they’re done, *unless* then can figure out non punch the monkey revenue.

    Lifestreaming, friend news feeds etc don’t a company make…it’s the utility of the product, the interconnectedness of the parts, the experience that make it fun, new and gain traction.

    Carol Bartz (and Tim Armstrong, imho) both need to re-read “The Innovator’s Dillemma” and think about a “Spin – In” concept, whereby they [email protected] something based on their parts that can grow, scale and eventually swallow back the mothership…as righting the old won’t make them competitive.

  3. Hi Om,
    The Yahoo! Updates API is open:
    Check out the integration that JS-Kit did already:
    Updates are currently being displayed to users in the newest versions of Yahoo! Messenger, Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Toolbar, and the Yahoo! Profile. Each of these will ramp its distribution footprint for Updates significantly over the course of the year. Our goal is to build a massive distribution platform for publishers and developers and to let users see what people they care about are doing all over the web.


    Cody Simms
    Senior Director, Product Management
    Yahoo! Open Strategy

  4. Yahoo! already do this via both MyBlogLog ( and Yahoo! Profiles (… yet another example of Yahoo! acquiring a service (MyBlogLog) and then creating a duplicate Yahoo! branded one (Yahoo! Profiles), failing to recognise what services they already own and missing the opportunity to correctly re-brand the acquisition and incorporate it into their standard range of services, monetizing the site along the way.

  5. It was getting users to generate content earlier, now we’re slowly moving towards bringing relevance to all the content that’s out there. It’s good to see the increased attention towards life-streaming, but i guess one has to do it carefully. Especially Yahoo – there was once a time when Yahoo was known for its approach and product releases, but currently, i think its a whole lot of clutter and spam that they have gathered (i’ve almost stopped using any of yahoo services, unfortunately). I hope both Yahoo and AOL have figured this out well before they indulge in it. On the contrary, its a great thing for companies/startups that are focusing only on life-streaming concepts!