Yahoo, which has seen its relevance as a web portal diminish with the rise of social networks, is hoping to make a comeback through a major refresh of its services, starting with online search and email.
The company on Thursday launched a product roadmap that will involve more frequent updates of all its services starting in the fall. Besides search and email, Yahoo services include instant messaging, applications for mobile devices and televisions and a number of content properties, such as news, finance and sports.
A new version of Yahoo Mail will be available in beta in a few weeks. Yahoo claims to have 281 million users of the service. Among the improvements is a "cleaner, sleeker" interface for easier use of features and navigation through the inbox, Yahoo said. The same look-and-feel of the interface will be available on a PC browser, smartphone, tablet and other mobile devices. Yahoo also is claiming to have implemented technology within its data centers to make Yahoo Mail faster. In a nod to the most popular social networks, users will be able to view and update Facebook and Twitter pages from the inbox. Other features include a new version of Yahoo's instant messaging service and a refurbished inbox search page.
With search, Yahoo is focusing on the client, offering "more visually compelling search results that let you discover information and be entertained all on one search result page," the company said. Under the hood, Yahoo Search is powered by Microsoft's Bing search engine. As of the last week of August, when Bing started powering Yahoo Search, Microsoft's search engine handled nearly a quarter of all U.S. Web searches, according to Internet metrics firm Experian Hitwise. Google continued to dominate the market with nearly a 72% share.
Yahoo's changes will have a particular impact on searches in the areas of entertainment and news. Search results for movies, music artists or celebrities will combine images, news articles, videos, tweets, events and ratings. News searches will combine videos, images, articles and tweets on a single page. Also coming in the fall is a new version of the Trending Now column on the search results page that provides a list of what's popular on the Yahoo network. The upgrade will make it possible for people to browse through pictures on Yahoo without leaving the search results page.
Whether the changes Yahoo has planned will reinvigorate the brand, which has lost some luster over the years with the web's evolution to social-oriented services, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, remains to be seen. In the meantime, Yahoo is continually expanding its reach.
One area it hopes to be strong is in Internet TV. Yahoo has partnered with a number of TV manufacturers, such as LG, Samsung, Sony and Vizio, to have its software embedded, so people can access Yahoo services through their remote control.
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