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11/29/2006
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Yahoo Quietly Launches Mobile Social-Networking Service

The unannounced service apparently targets teens and young adults, for texting and photo and video sharing.

Yahoo has quietly launched an experimental site that offers mobile-phone subscribers the ability to send text messages and share videos and pictures among friends. The service follows a trend among Internet portals to offer mobile social-networking services.

Rather than the usual fanfare that accompanies the debut of most new sites, Yahoo plans to market Mixd on a handful of college campuses across the nation. The strategy focuses on Yahoo's target audience, so-called Generation Yers who are the biggest users of their mobile phones' data services.

"It's really an experiment," Scott Gatz, senior director of Yahoo's Advanced Products Group, said of Mixd, which hit the Web Wednesday. "We're putting it out to consumers to see how they use the product."

The service is centered on making it easy for groups of friends to use text messaging as a way to organize a party, meet in a restaurant, attend a football game or arrange any other social activity. Yahoo expects users to form a lot of ad hoc groups around particular events, and use the service's "reply-to-all" feature as way to communicate collectively. Individuals can also have private conversations, and people have the option whether to join a group. The creator also has the option of kicking people out.

Each group will automatically get a Web site where all the pictures, videos and messages sent through the phones will be posted for viewing later. "In case you want to go back and remember the event," Gatz said.

Yahoo doesn't have a business model for the site yet. "It's really about testing, and gathering user feedback," Gatz said.

The site falls within the Internet trend of extending social networks from the PC to the mobile phone, which has become the communication-tool-of-choice for adults 18 to 26, a coveted demographic for advertisers. The so-called Generation Yers are the biggest users of data services and have been the most successful in integrating the phone into their lifestyles, according to Forrester Research.

MySpace, owned by News Corp. and among the Web's most popular social networks, is developing mobile services for its users. In addition, the site has a partnership with youth-oriented wireless carrier Helio, which offers social-networking services based on global positioning systems in high-end mobile phones. InterCasting Corp.'s Rabble is another example of a GPS-based service, and Microsoft is testing mobile software, called SLAM, that would provide personal locator services, as well as messaging and photo sharing.

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