Yahoo is beginning the transition to its new socially-enabled platform, laying the foundation for a "universal profile" Thursday.
The new profile page will allow users to make limited changes to their profiles, such as status updates, adding connections (friends in the social graph) from their Yahoo address book, and listing interests. Users can change settings, control permissions and manage notifications across various Yahoo properties.
Yahoo 360 (Yahoo's 2005 attempt to create a social network ) member profiles will be migrated to the new system, but Yahoo 360 won't be going away yet, according to Jim Stoneham, vice president of communities at Yahoo.
"There is not a lot to demo in this release. It's a foundation release that will allow other things to happen and developers to do things," Stoneham told me. "We have to make sure it works before turning on connections to big traffic properties. The big bang theory doesn't work at this scale. It like Apple rolling out a new operating system release." In September, Yahoo gave developers access to its new social APIs and Yahoo Application Platform (YAP) for writing applications that run on Yahoo Web pages.
Stoneham expects Yahoo's social graph to "light up quickly" soon, however. Over the next few months, more Yahoo property activity feeds will show up in the profile page and additional aggregation points, such as the home page and Yahoo Mail, will aggregate feeds and allow connections. In Yahoo Mail, users will see messages from contacts, connection requests and activity updates from contacts. The Yahoo.com home page will offer a module that shows the activity updates of a user's connections.
In addition, within the next few months Yahoo is adding a new universal header on every page of the service to unify key navigation elements. Along with the usual links to the Yahoo home page, MyYahoo and Yahoo Mail, a new profile link will provide access to user profiles and contacts.
Over time, properties such as Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Finance, Flickr and Yahoo Buzz, will be socially enabled beyond activity feeds, Stoneham said. He gave an example of requesting a review from a user's connections while perusing a product page in Yahoo Shopping. When a review is posted it shows up in the user's activity feed. In addition, miniprofiles are available to get information quickly about the reviewer. If the reviewer isn't a personal connection, the profile won't have all the contact information.
During an interview in September, Venkat Panchapakesan, head of Yahoo's Audience Technology Group, listed the three top challenges Yahoo faces in bringing its social dimension to scale: making applications such as Yahoo Mail work well on desktop and mobile devices; data privacy; and converting all profiles to a single name space (the universal profile) and lighting up the social graph. One challenge partially down, and two to go.
Correction: Previously it was reported that Yahoo Buzz activity feeds would be surfaced at this time in the new profile pages. A Yahoo spokesperson said that the Buzz feed was not yet implemented.