Blog Post

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

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.

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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. Punkerpan

    Yahoo doesn’t care what we want – if they did, we would have been given a choice about the new (garbage) homepage. No wonder Google stock is so high and Yahoo is struggling!

  2. I hate the new yahoo, too much unneeded information, now it is just a clustered page, overlapping photos and articles as well, should be an optional alternative to choose from.

  3. I want the static news that I can find easily. And Facebook is yesterdays news. Being late to the party does not show innovation. Switch it back please. Fluff it up if you must but I will have to use a different homepage if it stays this way.

  4. Yahoo—- remember the “new Coke” ?
    change back—- it is bad—too confusing
    It is impossible to put more unwanted “stuff” on the page
    It will save a lot of people a lot of time…
    no one will stay on it & lots will find a better home page

  5. This is the worst change ever. Why we can’t have an option for the old is beyond me. And have you noticed that Yahoo is not addressing any of the negative comments. I have sent comments to their feedback and received nothing. I did find a way around the new site – move to a different site – CNN, MSNBC or Google! Goodby Yahoo

  6. Gloria Dulin

    Why can’t we have a choice as to which format we want to use? Personally, I like the old format with categories. Hate to scroll through everything to get to what I want to read.

  7. wow this new web page sucks , i dont want to search thru all of those just to get to my local news atleast give the option to revert back to the old page no options its like hitlerism in the land of free yahoo sucks

  8. Former yahoo fan

    The new page is a nightmare . You scroll endlessly to find stories that used to be at your fingertips . This is an attempt to keep people on the Yahoo page longer , yet according to all the feedback it is having the polar opposite effect . This is New Coke all over again . Yahoo should listen and value their users not the shareholders . Because if the user does not use the site , the shareholder looses money . This is a huge stumble for the new CEO.

  9. If they were wanted to correct something it should be the writing and the editing of their articles. They can’t seem to get either of those right. Know high school students that could do a better job. Their format was great and that is what they thought would work….wrong. They should have left that alone old saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Looking to relocate any ideas?

  10. I hate it. Been with them for years. Looking to relocate. Wasn’t the format that was bad. It was the dumb articles that lacked substance and editing. If they truly wanted to update they should have started with their writers. Teach them to spell and to edit the things they write.

  11. New design is terrible most of us liked the old one. If they really wanted to do something right, they should first start with thing that were wrong with it. It was not the format, it was the lack of proper editing of article and the way that they headlined them. To much movie crap as headlines, most of us go there for new I mean real news not year old articles revisited when their writers get bored. Format was great…..articles lacked substance.

  12. I agree that the new YAHOO homepage is pure garbage. If something is not broke don’t try fixing it. The old homepage worked fine. The new home page, well I feel like I am on facebook. Which I visit from time to time, but do not like the scrolling factor. Sometimes people change companies and try something from the old company at the new company. Expecting it to work the same. Only thing it does not. The new YAHOO homepage actually made my computer crash the first time I seen it. Does that say something about the NEW YAHOO HOME PAGE!!!!! Does not work for me.

  13. I hate the redesign—it makes it too hard to find my usual spots of interest, and the HUUUUUGE photo on the top takes up way too much space. Plus, the purple—it’s just annoying.

  14. I think its a very poor attempt at being new or fresh its terrible and i agree with carol schmidt it looks like a kid laid it out.When does the fascination with facebook go away you make any of it like facebook and im gone..Facebook is the devil there has to be a 666 somewhere in it:) social media is destroying the kids but thats another issue..Goodbye yahoo ..it sucks..

  15. IT”S AWFUL! I want my old home page! I do not want all that stuff and I do not care what the young ones like. I am not into entertainment, technology and the like. I’m looking into a new home page!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Is the old page gone? If there is no way back I am sad to hear it. I will be finding a new page for my news. I have been using yahoo for my mail and news for a long time, but this new layout stinks!!!

  17. ALSO, I Cannot find a way to DELETE the Categories on the Left Column…..ONLY a way to add more…..CHOOSING ONLY the one’s I Am PERSONALLY Interested…..
    AT LEAST I felt I had a Choice what I wanted to go to in my Morning READ!

  18. THIS IS THE WORST AND MOST UNORGANIZED FRONT PAGE EVER!!!!!!
    ALL THE STORIES/ ARTICLES ARE MIXED IN TOGETHER!!
    I HATE It!

    I PREFER the Older way of NEWS, POLITICS, LOCAL, FINANCIAL, Etc, Etc…….ALL EACH in their Own ORGANIZED Categories, BAH, HUMBUG!

  19. Sally Q Public

    Arun – you are 25 and you LOOKED at the site. Did you try to read the news items, did you try to find a news item? Is Entertainment news the deepest you go! Remember this you too will grow old. Also remember this “old” generation developed the space age, put a man on the moon and in orbiting space stations, invented the internet, nuclear medicine, the desktop computer and 1,000 more things – what exactly has your generation done so far besides develop and play video games?

  20. It’s not only incredibly annoying–which seems to be the consensus as well on yahoo’s own comment boards–it doesn’t even work right …

    If they were going to use us for beta testing, they could have at least made it voluntary.

    That giant sucking sound you hear is their users leaving en mass.