Live From Yahoo's Product Runway Event

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I’m at Yahoo Headquarters in Sunnyvale, California, where Yahoo is planning to outline its future product strategy and preview a number of upcoming new products. This is a big event for Yahoo, which has long been criticized for having a murky brand identity and an unclear core focus. I’m live blogging my notes from the event below.

Blake Irving, Yahoo’s recently-appointed EVP and Chief Products Officer, has taken the stage. He’s outlining some of Yahoo’s recent (less than positive) press coverage.

“You’re going to see things over the next few years that will feel a little bit different”. We’re going to be iterating much more frequently than we do today. People see Yahoo and see multiple verticals — you’re going to increasingly see “One Yahoo”. Going to be both on and off network. Yahoo is something that you take with you.

Consumers want to take their content with them across the web. Highlighting some core elements of Yahoo.

“Ecosystem” – There are many assets Yahoo has today that are used in our own products…
“Personal Relevance via science and data – 50% of Yahoo visitors log in on monthly basis. Over net three years striving for 100% authentication. How do you do that? Have things people want to log in for. We will honor Facebook IDs, Twitter IDs, other open IDs.

“Be Where the Consumer Goes” – Yahoo is strong in mobile. Number one in mail, News. Tablet, mobile, going to make more investments here.

“Own real social relationships on the web” – Social is just starting. Facebook has lots of users. But sometimes I am afraid to share something because of not wanting to offend someone in my list. Think about using Yahoo’s assets to have smaller groups of people, topical and around content.

“Engage and delight” — Fast, intuitive services.

New Yahoo Mail — Speed increases, easier to use. IM integration in Mail. Mail has been re-architected from the ground up. ‘What’s New’ Page, with Twitter, Facebook integration.

Search— More visually pleasing search results. There’s going to be a blurring between typing in a query and getting a bunch of a links… People just want answers. Let you buy a ticket right from a movie result.

iPad — Experience is different from the web. Curated content, mashed up in a metaphor that is different from your PC. Showing off some slick-looking apps. Yahoo Mail for iPad coming.

Going to see Twitter integration into Yahoo Pulse (Yahoo previously launched similar integration with Facebook).

Showing off customized, interactive ads. “Engage with the ad, even share it”. Sounds a lot like the pitch for Apple’s iAds, but it’s in a web browser.

Raymie Stata, VP and Chief Technology Officer has taken the stage
“Yahoo is a network for (100’s of) websites”

Talking about bringing all content/ad data into computational grid where science is done. Not sure this is what people are wondering about when ask what exactly Yahoo does. Talking about injecting human voice into content.. “This is all very abstract”. Yup.

“Relevant personalized content for consumers”. There are large content modules in search results. These can include personalization. AT&T portal has their content, but our tech is behind it. This is all sort of vague.

Starbucks digital network in partnership with Yahoo. They’re showing a Satrbucks community that’s apparently being powered by Yahoo. Now back to vague talk about platforms.

Yahoo Mail:
-55% less spam than Gmail. 40% less than hotmail.

Yahoo has been working on infrastructure, being widely distributed, without costs of building huge data centers. Large data centers are on third generation of design, we’ve been reducing costs.

Q&A:
A: With search we guess the best intent for a query, say for “Lady Gaga”, but have accordion view to access other results.

A: Engage and delight means doing things people do on a daily basis really well. Talking about feedback loops that I’m pretty sure is just whizzing over everyone’s head.

Q: What part of this roadmap distinguishes you from Bing?
A: Relationship with Microsoft allows us to be defocused on backend stuff (crawl, index, relevance). What we’re seeing today is just a peek at what is next. Our users have told us that they are looking to get to answers as quickly as possible. This journey takes us a step in that direction.

Irving: Yahoo in three years is a global series of web experiences across a variety of devices that gives people what they want. Connect advertisers with an audience that’s global in scope that’s very targeted. Make it a more personally meaningful exp. for them. People ask are you search, content, communications company? In a world where people only have X amount of time, we’d like to engage on things they care most about, whether it’s on or off Yahoo’s network, and be relevant around the globe.

(asked about personalization/privacy). We ensure we have best-in-class privacy. We will put user in control of their data.

Q: My daughter uses Yahoo Mail. Asked for Gmail account. Asked why. How do you win the 10/11 year old future user back?
A: Don’t think there is an easy answer. There’s a bunch of ‘bringing cool back to Yahoo’, integrating Facebook…

Q: What metrics are you aiming for?
A: We have a bunch of metrics we’re shooting for. Some are aspirational, others that are these are what we want to make sure we are running, growing revenue, number of users, engagement, etc.
A: There is a change in how we think about the businesses, it’s going to be much more metrics driven.

Q: A lot of the center of personal web, seems to be short status messages on Twitter/Facebook. Are you now taking a backseat and letting FB drive status/short posting around the web?
A: Integration with Twitter/Facebook is acknowledgment that this is users want to do. We know there are holes. Things that today’s social network environment doesn’t provide them.

Q: Strategy for being on mobile devices given that you don’t own an OS?
A: We don’t own an OS. We don’t go down to the hardware. Puts us in a different position with carriers who look on us favorably. Carriers say, you aren’t providing an OS, but you’re doing best in class on Android, iPhone.. we have series of OS we can provide common experience to.

Q: Blake you’ve been here 100 days. What were your misconceptions about Yahoo before you came?
A: One I wasn’t sure about the technology company. There was so much strength on the media company angle… Became apparent that this is a technology company in the media business. Saying that at its core Yahoo is a tech company that finances with media. My job is to take as much friction out of the system to allow engineering team to get things done.

Q: One of key things about Android is integration with Gmail. On Windows Phone is your relationship with MS gives any tighter integration with WIndows Phone.
A: The way we get to having messager, mail the preferred application is by being best in class.

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