Yahoo's Profile Mess

Yahoo launched their new profile product last week as part of their big plan to social networkize the entire Yahoo world. Every Yahoo profile was reset, and users were asked to go through a process of recreating it.

The comments from users were unambiguous – they were pissed off.

Common complaints include the fact that the new profile must include your full name, which your connections (friends) can see, as well as the removal of a few features that I’ve never heard of (like Cool Links) that apparently some percentage of users really, really liked. But by far the biggest complaint was the fact that all of the information in the old profiles was wiped clean, and users were presented with a blank slate like the one above (which is mine). Some users also noted that there was no message on that blank profile letting users know what just happened to their data. You had to go to the blog posts to understand what happened.

Meanwhile, Yahoo scurried to respond. In one of the blog posts, Melissa Daniels, Yahoo’s Community Manager, said “We know this has been a rough transition for some of you and, and are committed to helping you use, understand, and (hopefully) enjoy your new profile.”

That just seemed to enrage users more. An example comment: “I agree Making a second rate copy of facebook while breaking everything else people come to yahoo for is a good way to go out of business.”

As critical as I’ve been of Yahoo recently, I’m mostly supporting them in the profile transition.

Communication with users was definitely poorly executed, and users should have had a message on their profile page telling them what was going on. But the team is clearly trying to fix that. VP Communities Jim Stoneham, who just joined Yahoo six weeks ago to lead the project (Welcome to Yahoo, Jim!), has a single message on his profile: “listening.” And Yahoo has at least kept a copy of the old profile information for users who want it back:

We also know lots of you worked hard on your old profiles and want your data. If you feel like you’re missing data, we’ve saved a copy of your old profile (and alias) and our Customer Care team can retrieve this information. You won’t, however, be able to revert back to your old profile format, but you will be able to get any data that you think is missing. To do this, please go here to contact Customer Care.

A lot of profile data is still there, anyway. I went through the new profile setup and it retained my name, age and interests, and displayed it after I was done.