At the beginning of February, My Yahoo rolled out their new product version. And I don’t like it.
I’ve been using My Yahoo pretty much since there was a My Yahoo. Back in those dark days, the “Next Killer App” was the “Web Portal.” The idea, as I figured it, was to recapture those glory days when users were forced to receive their “internet” content through their provider’s configured format. AOL, Compuserve, Prodigy, and others – all had business built around shaping their customers experience based on controlling the initial interface that users had to the web content.
As internet users began to require full access to all that was available out there, they would not tolerate being forced through a limited interface. This, apparently, opened up a business opportunity for companies that could provide the perfect “home page.” By being the starting point for computer users to launch their “web surfing,” the owners of these portals could monetize the ownership of all these “eyeballs.”
Of course, the dot com bubble crash put an end to most of these dreams, but that is another story.
My Yahoo was one of the early innovators in this market and, to my mind at least, one of the most successful. Initial versions provided stories from the news services, industry or topic -specific news, local weather and information (such as movie times), as well as an interface to Yahoo* email. Advantages to the user (me, that is) was a combination of free access to paid content plus classes of information that I didn’t know were “out there.”
Naturally, the services evolved. As traditional newspapers decided to get into the internet news business, free stories that were provided by My Yahoo got pulled. Yahoo News itself replaced The New York Times as a basic source of current headlines. Yahoo Finance developed many nice features. It remains to this day as the most common reference free source of real time and historical market information.
My personal experience went through a life cycle. Initially, I adopted many new features as they were made available. The last major, welcomed information was the ability to use My Yahoo as an RSS Newsreader. Features would come and go, and I was disappointed when something I enjoyed disappeared. At first, even the lost content made sense – free services can’t be provided when the business case gets bad enough.
Through the middle years, the changes started becoming more negative than positive. The interface to their local weather deteriorated, and became unusable (at least the way I used it – the weather graphic never seemed to match the actual forecast) so I switched to Accuweather. The Yahoo-provided news sources declined in use. At some point, most of my My Yahoo interface was unused.
But having lived through this for so many years, the familiarity of it was useful. I had the layout set up just right for the way I used it. Yahoo Finance information was strung down one side below my email inbox. I used the feature to minimize/show details of individual portfolios so that key chunks of information would line up just right. Yes, I was scrolling past big chunks of stuff that I no longer used, but I had grown to expect that.
The final stage I’ll call the Marissa years. Yahoo has been undergoing more rapid change in the last year and a half or so – go figure. With few exceptions, these changes seem to add more “gee whiz” factors at the expense of things I’ve come to rely on. The last, and final step, was the changes to My Yahoo.
As far as I can tell, the changes are to permit more colorful and “cool” graphics. This at the expense, of course, of destroying that layout I had come to rely on. I will say that they seem to be fixing some of the majors issues I saw on February first, but they don’t have them fixed. For example, I initially found it impossible to get my “My Portfolio” financial information to display on the My Yahoo page – instead directing me to log in to access the fantastic new content. (!!) Today’s look shows that it is sometimes there (and sometimes missing) – which is some improvement. But several of my favorite features, such as that ability to minimize/show details is gone.
I also suspect, reading between the lines of their marketing pitch, that they are once again attempting to develop a better user profile – a la Facebook, etc. That is, by encouraging me to increase my customization of my page, they can develop a better picture of my qualities as a marketing target.
I’ve probably held on to the 90s concept of a “home page” for a decade and a half longer than I should have. My Yahoo’s change is prompting me to finally say goodbye and good riddance.
What I should have done, years ago, is moved to an RSS news reader. I’m in the process of setting up FeedDemon to create the experience I was hoping to get out of My Yahoo. Of course, FeedDemon is also out-of-date technology. But I’m a slow adopter.
*I know it’s Yahoo!, but I’m not going to type that.