Yahoo sets date for shutting down 360 social network

The original plan had been to close it last year

Yahoo will close its Yahoo 360 social-networking site in July, something it originally planned to do in early 2008 and later delayed to last year's second half.

Yahoo 360, once the company's best bet to compete in the social-networking market, will shut down on July 13, by which time its users should have migrated over to the new Yahoo Profiles service, the company said Friday.

When it first announced in October 2007 that it would close Yahoo 360, the company said its intention was to transition to a "universal" Yahoo profile, a plan it reiterated when it launched its ambitious Yahoo Open Strategy (Y OS) in April 2008.

In September 2008, it closed its other social-networking site, Yahoo Mash, which never evolved beyond an early stage service.

However, it wasn't until October 2008 that the company launched its "universal" profile service, Yahoo Profiles, which incorporates basic social-networking functions, giving people the ability to publish information about their lives, create a list of friends, broadcast status updates and keep a blog with text entries, photos, videos and Web links.

Still, Yahoo Profiles doesn't match the features of Yahoo 360, as acknowledged by Melissa Daniels, Yahoo's community manager, on Friday's blog announcement.

"At this time, your new profile does not have all the features and functionality of your 360 profile. However, we are looking at incorporating new ways of expressing yourself through your profile," Daniels wrote.

"In regards to uploading multiple photos, your profile on Yahoo allows for only one primary photo for now. This is also something we're looking at improving/expanding based on your feedback."

Yahoo 360 launched in March 2005 but never gained the popularity the company expected compared to competitors like Facebook and MySpace.

Yahoo 360's failure stands as an example of one of many red-hot Internet opportunities that Yahoo was unable to capitalize on in recent years, as it lost its technology edge and its finances foundered.

In May of last year, Neal Sample, Yahoo's chief platforms architect, told IDG News Service that unifying Yahoo's multiple end-user profiles is a fundamental piece of the Y OS project, which also involves radically opening up the company's sites, online services and Web applications to external developers.

"It's taking the user data and making it centrally available, and therefore available to the user all across the network," Sample said.

"Part of our strategy is to normalize those [multiple] profiles and collapse them into a single place and reduce user confusion. We'll make a single dashboard for them to update their information, and we'll go from looking like 25 different Yahoos with 25 different profiles to one Yahoo and one profile," he added.

While the big Y OS picture is certainly compelling in theory, a key question has always been how fast Yahoo can make it a reality, considering how ambitious and broad the project is.

While Yahoo has been regularly releasing new products, technologies and upgrades as part of Y OS, the grand vision is far from realized.

At the same time, Internet trends, opportunities and innovations blaze by at dizzying speeds, drastically changing the landscape.

Thus, a company like Facebook, not long ago considered on the edge of social media, recently found itself scrambling to adapt to the popularity of microblogging ushered in by Twitter.

One has to wonder if Y OS, in the works since April of last year, will appear obsolete by the time it is completed.

For example, Yahoo Profiles, the substitute for Yahoo 360, doesn't look now like a groundbreaking social media service capable of disrupting this market and giving Facebook, MySpace or Twitter a run for their money.

Yahoo 360 does give its users the capability to download their content and export it to other popular blog-publishing services like Wordpress and Google's Blogger. They can also migrate their content to Yahoo Profiles' blog feature.

Asked for comment about Friday's Yahoo 360 announcement and the status of the Profiles service, a Yahoo spokeswoman reiterated the information in the blog post and added that Profiles is still in beta, or test, mode.

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Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service
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