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Yahoo’s latest attempt to reinvent the portal is too little and too late

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There’s been a rush of optimism about Yahoo (s yhoo) lately, thanks in large part to its new CEO, much-admired former Google executive Marissa Mayer. After a number of speeches about her broader strategy to reinvent the company, the new chief Yahoo unveiled a redesigned site on Wednesday — a relaunch that garnered a bunch of somewhat lukewarm reviews from the usual suspects. The reality is that Yahoo’s latest attempt to reinvent the old “portal” approach to the web might have made sense five years ago, but it is both too little and too late.

In a post announcing the launch at Yahoo’s “Yodel Anecdotal” blog, Mayer talks about how the site has been redesigned to provide a “stream” of news and information that scrolls onward for as long as a user might like, instead of just a big static chunk of headlines. As she puts it:

“Since streams of information have become the paradigm of choice on the web, we’re introducing a newsfeed with infinite scroll, letting you experience a virtually endless feed of news articles. Whether you are a sports fanatic or entertainment buff, you can easily customize your newsfeed to your interests.”

We have a news feed just like Facebook!

Mayer is right that streams have become the paradigm of choice, but that particular boat set sail a long time ago — Facebook (s fb) first introduced the News Feed, which has become the go-to news and information source for hundreds of millions of people, in 2006. Twitter, the other news source that pioneered the real-time stream of information, was also created in 2006 and how has hundreds of millions of users. Facebook, of course, recently crossed over the 1-billion-user mark.

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That’s not to say a company couldn’t reinvent the real-time news stream, it just means that if Yahoo plans to do so, it’s going to have to try a lot harder than if it had embarked on such a strategy four or five years ago. All the new Yahoo page appears to do is let headlines scroll beyond the little box that the site used to put them in, something that even newspaper websites — hardly the epitome of innovation — started doing a long time ago.

A more detailed post on the changes from Yahoo’s VP of product, Mike Kerns, describes a great new feature that lets users “click a button that allows you to share the story via email, Facebook, or Twitter.” If that strikes you as something dramatically new, then you haven’t been paying attention.

We have apps too, just like Facebook!

Mayer also talked about new “applications” that Yahoo has added, so that users can always see their updated weather and sports scores, something that again feels like a revamping of a decade-old strategy. The customized portal with tiny news and information “apps” was something that was popular years ago via players like Pageflakes and Netvibes — and Google went after it with iGoogle, an offering it recently decided to mothball. Why? Because it wasn’t providing nearly enough bang for the buck, presumably.

Yahoo is also boasting about the fact that you can now log in with Facebook and see all your friends’ birthdays and other activity — a feature that Facebook first started offering with its Facebook Connect platform launch almost three years ago, and one that is now used by hundreds of thousands of news sites. This offering is not only late, but reinforces how much of Yahoo’s strategy seems to rely on partnering with others, something that is at best an unlikely route to success.


Some supporters of the company argue that Yahoo could reach out to developers of apps that it could run on its home page or in user’s streams, in the same way that Facebook has built much of its success on top of game or app companies like Zynga. But can Yahoo offer anything even close to what Facebook can, either in terms of reach or revenue? And are new versions of Candy Crush Saga or Farmville really worth banking Yahoo’s future on?

It’s true that Yahoo still has hundreds of millions of loyal users, but then so does AOL’s dial-up business — in other words, there may still be value there, but it is in a process of gradual (and likely accelerating) decline. Yahoo Finance still has its fans, and so does the site’s fantasy sports offerings, but the reality is that its overall traffic has been falling, and tweaks to its home page offerings are not going to reverse that in any significant way.

In that sense, Mayer’s much-hyped relaunch of the home page seems a lot like adding a new coat of paint and some racing stripes to your old Chevy. It may make you feel better, but it’s not going to go any faster.

70 Responses to “Yahoo’s latest attempt to reinvent the portal is too little and too late”

  1. Charles Edward Brown

    Give it a chance. I think its a welcome change. Lets try and encourage Yahoo to be more innovative instead of sticking their head in the sand like they have been.

  2. I realize that every NEW person (CEOs, Presidents, VPs, etc) in charge is required (in their on mind) to “mark their spot”. Well, this new CEO screwed the pooch to say the least with the totally, incredible, just plain awful, homepage. I would hope this new CEO is not the typical “my way or the highway” CEO. If she turns out that way, then, good luck on a long Yahoo! employment. Just watch the stock value fall, fall, fall. Well, you get the idea.
    The Yahoo! public deserve more.
    By the way… reminds me of Facebook pages….. not very original, Yahoo! CEO!!!!

  3. karokega1

    You say to change the background color on the Homepage……………. just click on PAGE OPTIONS…………………………….IT’S NOT THERE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    How difficult would it be to REALLY make a set up page option……… ie; Microsoft office………… LET US SET THE PAGE UP……………. click “SAVE”……………. and REGARDLESS of POP-UP’S………. IT WOULDN’T have CHANGED by the next time you reopened the browser.

    ALSO…………………. you messed up YAHOO MAIL PAGE.

    PLEASE…………PLEASE…………………… either PUT it BACK………or HIRE a “NEW” PROGRAMMER…………….. who has COMMON SENSE “FRESH” idea’s


    [email protected]

  4. Terrible. Horrible. Awful. At least give us the option of “going back” to a design that worked and made sense. This does neither — and adds nothing.

    If Yahoo keeps “improving” it’s going to “improve” itself right out of business despite having tremendous potential.

    This is a real letdown.

  5. Geoff Crowley

    Yahoo is a sum of its parts and it has many that are the best on the web. The new home page looks great to me. It seems less cluttered, yet everything is accessible. I imagine a lot of the recent positive developments at yahoo were in the works before Marissa Mayer arrived, but she probably had the most personal impact on this one. She is known for having developed the original Google “clean” look. This has a lot going on but it works really well. She has the touch, imo

  6. I don’t think Facebook is (or is ever going to) become an internet portal for the masses. It’s a limited little slice of what’s on the Internet. At least Yahoo offers better access to the web.

  7. Tod Miler

    It’s the mother of all portals. Why can’t I comment on this Yahoo article using my Yahoo user ID and password? If they are going to strip my Yahoo controls and abilites then maybe I might think about going somewhere else for my news information.

  8. Betting on CEO’s is like pinning the tail on the jack ass. In the end it is all about doing something blindly. These lessons are always expensive and just goes to show investors that it isn’t the individual who leads or rather who heads up the leaders, it is all about the team. Give her credit, she went after the job, negotiated a nice salary and bonus and will give the gig her best try. Investors, you better do a gut check.

  9. Yahoo keeps digging its own grave, when Yahoo did away with the chat rooms, that was one nail in their coffin for me. then they load up the mail page with so many advertisements takes forever to load. Yahoo is not for me anymore. I am switching my email to one that doesnt have all the ads and slowness, and will eventually just stop using Yahoo garbage.

    They had a good thing and a new CEO comes in and ruins it. I hope Yahoo goes the way AOL did, down and down.

  10. Too bad yahoo changed the foremat from good to TERRIBLE. They need to change there political affiliation to keep and get customers. I hate the political agenda they put forth and now this new homepage may be the straw that broke the camels back. Google is looking better all the time.

  11. The problem with Yahoo is not their portal or its appearance. The problem with Yahoo is their poor proofreading and editing and their continued attempts to drive their own political agenda by slanting the news and presenting what are clearly opinion pieces as “news”.

  12. I liked the old site. Too busy now. I have to look at a bunch of stuff I could care less about. FYI Yahoo – not everyone in this country (or around the world) that uses the internet is a 25 year old hipster with ADD.

  13. Thomas Baker

    And alas, it’s not even a very intelligent news feed. There’s a story among the top five at 3:30 PM (ET) about how the stock market is expected to open at 9:30 this morning. And a headline that says “Nation’s Entire Government Quits in Protest” without telling you what nation is involved here.

    Have to agree with the assessment in this article. And My Yahoo, which you would think would be a terrific candidate for amazing targeted advertising and mobile spinoffs, looks pretty much the way it did 10 years ago – with one completely untargeted ad spot.

  14. Lisan al Gaib

    its hilarious about the “lukewarm reviews.” they should read their comments section. over 99% of posters HATE the revamp. most are stating that they will change their homepage to get the news. Yahoo really screwed up on this one.

  15. Hand of Doom

    Garbage. Pure Garbage. Sometimes CEO’s need to keep their hands off stuff. But just like Progressive Democrats, they aren’t happy until they get their filthy hands all over everything that people people like and destroy it.

  16. Kelly Hartle

    The new home page is terrible–there’s no organization at all and you can’t get rid of categories of news, like sports or finance. If my e-mail wasn’t through Yahoo I’d change it as my home page.

  17. Carol Schmidt

    Got onto my Yahoo & WTF? hate it. Why can’t you people just leave well enough alone. I finally got my homepage working after months of problems. Now you you screw around with it again. It looks like a kid laid out the page now. Hate it.

  18. Eugene Morris

    I took advice from one person and went to, and they let U set up what U want your page to look like.

    It’s great, U don’t have a page full of Garbage.

    I’m out of Yahoo!!!

  19. My only complaint regarding the new layout it that I cannot right click and open the link in a new tab or browser. Having to click back and then rescroll through all of the articles again is not fun. Fix that and I will be happy.

  20. Gunther Sonnenfeld

    Pretty shocking how poor this strategy is (if you want to call “personalization” and “partnership” strategies). Frankly, I had a lot more hopes for Mayer’s impact, but I suppose it shows you how a Google legacy in search doesn’t do much in the way of creating a differentiated business model.

    Yahoo! nonetheless has tremendous potential — and lots of inherent value — in its content, its apps/utilities and its networks. I think it actually has an opportunity to move away from staid advertising and search models towards a true publishing play that raises the value on its own journalists and editorial contributors, provides critical (and open) data on its networks, and also experiments with ‘open revenue’ models.

    One example would be to leverage its contributor networks ala an iReporter-type model, but in this case would cut citizen journos in on rev share or profit shares based on article/content performance. This is a program that could be applied to a GigaOm partnership in the subject areas of tech, digital media, startup innovations, etc.

    If Yahoo! (and other Internet giants) can’t see past the paradigmatic “search-and-click” models and continue to rely on ads for revenue, the market will keep cannibalizing itself with crappier content, commodified inventory, marginalized apps and unhappy customers.

    • i am old and don’t like it. i don’t give a darn about facebook, play stations, entertainers, sports. i want news, world, national, local, finance and politics. the country is about to go bankrupt. if you want fecalbook go there.