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With Deeper Facebook Integration, Is This Yahoo's 'Tom Jones Moment'?

First the news, which has already been widely reported: Yahoo is more deeply integrating Facebook on its homepage and across many of its properties. It has also changed the name of “Yahoo Profiles” to “Yahoo Pulse” (currently not working) and made the property more of a social media dashboard that manages sharing with third party sites as well as across Yahoo.

Here are the relevant bullets from the formal announcement:

  • Facebook Integration Yahoo! has reached an important milestone in its partnership with Facebook. Starting this week, people who use both Yahoo! and Facebook can link their accounts and view and share updates with friends across both networks. People who connect their accounts can consume their Facebook News Feed on the Yahoo! homepage and in Yahoo! Mail and other Yahoo! sites and services. Additionally, people who create and share content on Yahoo! sites – including Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Sports, Flickr, and many Yahoo! entertainment sites, such as omg!, Yahoo! TV, and Yahoo! Movies – can easily share their actions with friends back on Facebook. Additional integrations will be ongoing.
  • A Refresh of Yahoo! Profiles Launched in October 2008, Yahoo! Profiles has allowed people to manage their identity and activities across Yahoo! from a central location. Yahoo! has refreshed the experience to make its privacy settings easier to use and to give people a central dashboard to manage what they share on Yahoo! from the external social accounts and apps that they have linked to Yahoo!, starting with Facebook and with others to come later this year. Yahoo! Profiles has been renamed Yahoo! Pulse to better reflect its broader ability to manage Yahoo! settings, privacy, and account links. The updated experience is available at http://pulse.yahoo.com.

All this is consistent with Yahoo’s revamped mission to be “a central hub for people’s online lives.” A Yahoo UK-Ireland executive contended that these moves now made Yahoo the “largest social network” in the world. Back at HQ in Sunnyvale I doubt that it would be described exactly this way.

One of  the cornerstones of Yahoo’s new strategy is content creation and aggregation. And this announcement qualifies in a parallel way as a kind of “social aggregation.”

The central objective is to enable people to update and access Facebook but stay on Yahoo. For some time, you’ve been able to access your Facebook news feed from the Yahoo homepage. This extends what users can do on Yahoo vis-a-vis Facebook. There’s very likely to be something nearly identical with Twitter coming in the near future.

For Facebook the deal is consistent with its strategy to extend its reach and your ability to interact with the Facebook “social graph” without actually having to be on Facebook itself.

Yet Facebook, even more than AOL, which shares a nearly identical strategy with Yahoo, is the portal’s greatest challenger — including for display advertising. Facebook has been evolving into what might be described as Yahoo 2.0. It’s thus somewhat ironic that Yahoo’s deeper Facebook integration is partly intended to prevent Yahoo from being shunted aside by the social network.

We can speculate about whether people will utilize these new features and tools as intended on Yahoo. However the idea (not entirely new or unique) to leverage Facebook (and Twitter) and the related social behavior across Yahoo is a smart one. Yahoo tried for several years and in a variety of ways to build its own social media destinations, largely without success. This is a much better approach given the reality of the market today.

A few years hence it may be more possible to go head-to-head with Facebook. But today, in a bit of social Jujitsu, the way Yahoo is competing is by working directly with Facebook.

And now let me explain the headline:

Welsh singer Tom Jones was very successful from his debut in the mid 1960s through the late 1970s. Then his career waned and he was increasingly seen as a figure from an earlier era — a “has been.” That’s how many tech insiders see Yahoo today: as an internet has-been.

Then in 1987 Jones recorded the Prince song “Kiss” with the band The Art of Noise. That single was hugely popular and revived Jones’ career.

Yes it’s a bit of a stretch to make the analogy between Jones and Yahoo, with this Facebook integration. But the company’s new “social momentum” (to borrow Yahoo’s words) could well help it become “relevant” again for those who thought it had already peaked.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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