At the Supernova conference last week I had the pleasure of interviewing two of Yahoo's rising stars, VP of Product Strategy Bradley Horowitz and leader of the Technology Development Group Caterina Fake (one of the co-founders of Flickr). They are both part of what is loosely termed an R&D team, which other Yahoo business units can tap into. We discussed a variety of Yahoo's products and the general product strategy of Yahoo going forward.
Open platforms and dev
Bradley said that Yahoo these days is all about open platforms - and discovering what people do with all the data that comes from that. Caterina said that the real interesting stuff comes from the creativity and invention this unleashes in people external to Yahoo. The phrase "Opening up Yahoo" was one Bradley mentioned in his speech to the Supernova attendees.
One of the recent success stories of Yahoo has been Yahoo! Hack Day, an internal developers project at Yahoo led by Chad Dickerson. The spirit of Hack Day is now being transferred to the Yahoo Developer Network, Yahoo's external development resource. Chad has recently taken the reins of YDN to make that happen.
Yahoo.com and Mail
We discussed a little about the recent re-design of the yahoo.com homepage, a story which I covered extensively on Read/WriteWeb (at that time I interviewed Bradley's boss, Chief Product Officer Ash Patel). Bradley noted that the yahoo.com homepage re-design was a step towards the functionality of MyYahoo - i.e. it's moving from a page model to a more interactive model. I asked if video and television-like content will increase on yahoo.com and Bradley responded by pointing to Yahoo! Video, which is getting more and more uptake. Also the new Yahoo.com homepage has video (and Ajax) elements.
I can't recall how I got on to this topic, but I mentioned how Gmail was a new email paradigm and that I loved how Google had changed the concept of web email. Bradley made a good point in response: that the new Yahoo Mail (even though it sticks with the existing paradigm) now integrates RSS and there are more PIM features coming. With Yahoo, because they have such a mainstream user base, it's a case of doing a deliberate switchover of functionality - rather than changing the ballgame as Google is wont to do. The same response was given when I mentioned my current hobby horse, widgets. i.e. MyYahoo will make more use of widgets when it makes sense to transition their mainstream users over to that kind of functionality.
Yahoo Search evolving into social search
One of the more interesting topics of discussion was how Yahoo Search is evolving into a more social construct. We're seeing evidence of it now, with Y! Answers - which allows users to search for things that don't yet have an answer. Also when you are logged in, there are options for Yahoo My Web results and IM integration. I asked how many Y! Answers were in the database so far and I was told approximately 10 Million, although this isn't a confirmed figure.
Organic growth via social networks
a recent post when she said "the sociality is definitely part of the ecosystem" for Flickr.The goal in general for Yahoo products is to achieve organic growth via social relationships. Flickr is a great example of this - it's how Flickr grew and will continue to grow, via the larger Yahoo network they're now a part of. Caterina pointed out that if Flickr did a Superbowl ad, then users that came to Flickr via the ads probably wouldn't understand the product. But if users come to Flickr via their social network, then they will have a better understanding of the product and hence there's a better chance they'll use it. I think Caterina made a similar point (from a different angle) in
All in all I'm always impressed by the number of smart people Yahoo has working for them now - and how open they are to tapping the tech community for ideas and inspiration (and vice versa!). I wish Google was more like this, but I guess they have their reasons.