Last week, screenshots of Kickstart, Yahoo’s lastest foray into social networks surfaced. Not surprisingly, Kickstart is targeted at recruiting, helping college student find an “in” at companies where they want to work and helping companies recruit students.
I like this approach, as long as they can keep it clean by ensuring the students are really students and the alumni are really alumni and genuinely work for the company they say they do. Somebody really should take that approach, verifying the email addresses of people before allowing them to join a network.
Oh wait, that’s what Facebook does. Mashable’s coverage mentions this too.
So, even if Yahoo succeeds and launches what sounds like a useful application of the social network, they will face an uphill battle to win users, even though most of us have yahoo.com accounts. The barrier to entry is still high enough, especially for college students who have a much longer and richer history on Facebook.
So, why doesn’t Yahoo jump into the aggregation game?
Google seems to be headed in that direction, and companies like Plaxo are trying. Still no one has solved the problem yet. Yahoo is truly an enigma; they have several big new web properties: del.icio.us, Upcoming, flickr, and a social network, 360 (who knew?). They have boatloads of users through My Yahoo, Mail, Groups, Answers, Yahoo Messenger, and their users touch a wide range of demographics.
A Yahoo network that was:
- One part social: Everyone with a Yahoo ID was already in, plus all their contacts were seeded based on email, photo-sharing, del.icio.us network, etc. This skips the joining and getting others to join phase. Plus, auto-connecting people would be another leap ahead for networks.
- One part profile aggregator: Merging contacts from LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, hi5, Bebo, etc. would be sweet. Even if it launched with only a couple partner networks, i.e. not Facebook or MySpace, they could prove the concept and draw the stubborn ones in by showing a revenue stream of ads.
- One part my content: All my stuff should be in one place e.g. flickr, email, IM, content, groups, social network, etc. Simply by joining all their properties into a social network, Yahoo would avoid the second phase of networking, i.e. the “I added a bunch of contacts, now what do I do?” phase.
Yahoo’s ad network would certainly benefit from personal ad-targeting, like what Facebook is developing (you’re not really surprised, are you?), and it might actually work better on Yahoo’s turf than on Facebook’s because people are used to ads from Yahoo.
Yahoo could also make more headway than anyone (except maybe Google) in the corporate social network space too, offering privacy controls and security to allow for network segmenting. Yahoo is an established company (I know, it’s hard to say for those of us who remember the salad days) whereas Facebook and others are flavor-of-the-month, private companies with very little history. Companies might trust Yahoo more than Google, based on track record. Google is notoriously black box in their approach to the enterprise (see GSA and Mini, whose search algorithms and rankings are closed), so Yahoo might get a warmer reception.
Maybe they’re on this path already. A sleuth here at Oracle (MB), found this listing for jobs in Yahoo Groups after some detective work on Facebook. Yahoo failed (twice) to acquire Facebook, and there is at least a rumor a month about what they’re doing on that front. After the recent management shakeup and the subsequent re-org, is this the time?