Are we witnessing the birth of a new Social Network?
Imagine being able to connect with friends, create status updates that can be as detailed as blog posts, check into and recommend local restaurants, find great news stories and share them with connections, upload images and even create short video snippets.
If it sounds like Google+, with maybe some Vine and Foursquare thrown into the mix, there's good reason for that. When Google decided to create their new social network, it was a combination of a new platform and strong tie-ins to other platforms, like YouTube, which had been acquired.
So when Marissa Mayer joined Yahoo! as CEO in June, 2012, it's clear that she created a strategy for the Internet Giant to once again become relevant. But what, exactly, that strategy was hasn't been clear.
During the last eight months, Mayer has initiated one acquisition after another. While not every one may be related to the construction of a social network, there are several key components that are coming together.
Let's review the timeline of Yahoo acquisitions since Mayer came on board:
- October, 2012 - Stamped - Social Recommendation
- December, 2012 - OnTheAir - Video
- January, 2013 - Snip.it - Social News
- February, 2013 - Alike - Social Recommendation
- March, 2013 - Jybe - Social recommendation
- March, 2013 - Summly - News aggregation, summarization
- May, 2013 - Astrid - Productivity
- May, 2013 - GoPollGo - Real-time surveys
- May, 2013 - MileWise - Travel Rewards
- May, 2013 - Loki Studios - Mobile gaming
- May, 2013 - Tumblr - Blogging
- May, 2013 - Playerscale - Online gaming
- June, 2013 - GhostBird Software - Mobile Photography Apps
- June, 2013 - Rondee - Video Conferencing
- July, 2013 - Bignoggins Productions - Fantasy Sports
- July, 2013 - Qwiki - Automated Video Production
Do any of those stand out to you?
The core of any social network is that it's a network. That means you need to be able to make connections and network with people. Some may even recall that Yahoo! tried that once, starting in 2005 (Yahoo! 360), and then shut the service down almost four years ago exactly. But does this capability exist elsewhere within the Yahoo! universe?
Within Flickr, you can indeed make connections with other people. Similar to Facebook, connections are two-way and must be approved by the other party. Flickr also has a growing Community system where people of like interests share and comment on each other's photos. While it doesn't have a status update, users are able to share (content, via images), like each other's posts (favorite), and leave comments.
So for those of us that prefer to communicate and forge connections via text, there's Tumblr. Acquired during May's shopping spree, Tumblr offers its users a platform to share updates. Similar to Google+, posts can be short or long, and include basic formatting. Images can be posted, as well as video and even audio, making it a very dynamic platform for sharing content.
NEWS & INFORMATION
Millions still rely on Yahoo as an information portal, providing them with news and information from trusted sources. LinkedIn has been working on developing their version of this for some time now (LinkedIn Today), and Facebook is rumored to be creating a similar system of their own. This is because more and more people are not only turning to the Internet, but to Social Media, as a source for their news and information.
And this is an area that Yahoo continues to improve, most recently with their purchase of the news curation service, Summly.
One of the contributing factors for the rapid growth of Google+ was that it was tightly integrated with Google's email system, Gmail. Gmail users were automatically afforded a Google+ account.
Yahoo! currently has nearly 300 million email users. If they were all to suddenly have accounts in a new Yahoo! social network, Yahoo! would leapfrog LinkedIn to the #3 spot.
And the acquisition of Astrid, a Reminder and Task list app, would make a nice addition to the Yahoo! email and ecosystem. Astrid already had strong email integration, and it could be that Yahoo! is hoping to replicate some of Gmail's ability to understand emails you receive and act on them using Google Now.
Foursquare, Yelp and even Facebook have long battled over the field of local recommendations. And Google has Google+ Local which seems destined to be further integrated into the search engine and social network. With each ecosystem, local businesses can be discovered, liked and recommended by friends, and Yahoo! wants a piece of that pie.
Stamped, Alike and Jybe were all focused on local discovery, and all have been shut down in favor of a new Yahoo! product. Will it be integrated into the new social network?
Yahoo! already owns one of the most popular image sharing networks, Flickr, which we mentioned earlier. But the Flickr app is lacking the kinds of picture taking, editing and sharing features that users are demanding - and getting from other services like Instagram.
Enter GhostBird. As a development company, GhostBird has created two apps for iOS: KitKam and PhotoForge2 that were very popular. They've since discontinued those apps and made it clear that their focus is in bringing that level of photography to the Flickr app.
OnTheAir is a video platform that claims to make "Hangouts look static" and that, coupled with Rondee, could create a very viable video communication platform.
And now Yahoo! is poised to acquire Qwiki, which can take images and audio and create short video snippets, giving Yahoo!'s platform the flexibility to do both short and long video.
Most of these acquired services have been temporarily disabled, with their websites simply stating announcements that they've been purchased by Yahoo!. Those services that Yahoo! does not intend to fold into something else would clearly be allowed to continue to function as-is.
The idea of Yahoo! getting into the Social Media industry isn't new. Many assumed that Yahoo! purchased Tumblr as a way of buying their way in, and they are right, to a degree. I suspect though that there's more to it than that. Yahoo! is working on something Big. Something Epic. Yahoo! has spent over $1.5 Billion in these acquisitions. And Mayer knows they can't just create another social network and expect people to do anything with it. Like Google+, it has to be innovative.
Just as MySpace is forging a return based on their strengths in the music industry, Yahoo! needs to play on their strengths in the News and Information arena. Yahoo! still sports one of the largest search engines and directories in the world. When Marissa Mayer announces a Yahoo! event later this year, I'd watch.
Acquisition Data: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mergers_and_acquisitions_by_Yahoo!
Image courtesy of Curious Expeditions, Flickr.