Yahoo gets makeover, (slowly) rolls out new homepage

Rollout has some hiccups, but analysts still say changes could refresh Yahoo's image

Yahoo Inc. today launched the beta of a newly overhauled homepage, whose promised features include the ability to integrate with the Facebook, Twitter, Myspace and other social networking pages of its users.

In an apparent attempt to recapture some of the hip cache the site had during its heyday, Yahoo is making some changes to its look and feel.

But so far, today's rollout has not been without hiccups. The new page showed up for some users, but not for others. And when the new page did come up, it didn't include any note or explanation of the changes. In addition, to updated home page this afternoon lacked the expected widgets that can open a new window with a fully functional copy of Facebook

"The new home page is a big step forward from the old page," said Dan Olds, principal analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "This page makes it possible to add non-Yahoo links, like Facebook and Twitter, to the main favorites section. The old Yahoo homepage just linked to Yahoo apps and partners. So that's a big step forward.

"The new page has some solid features but if they don't execute the launch correctly, they aren't going to get the boost they need from it," Olds added. "I'm concerned about the mechanics of the roll out. No announcement to users about the new version on the old page. No discussion on the new page about new features. It almost looks like a stealth launch, which isn't what the company needs right now. They need a big splash and a mass conversion. I don't know if they're going to get that."

The site is expected to eventually allow users to add their own widgets to the page, customizing it to fit their interests. For instance, people could add widgets for stock trackers, health information and even a widget to find events going on in your area.

Taking a cue from Twitter's top 10 search list, Yahoo has added its own ranking of top searches, which included Apollo 11, Jupiter and Hasselhoff this afternoon, to the home page.

When Yahoo hired Carol Bartz as CEO in January, analysts said that her first mission was to restore the hip buzz that once surrounded the online pioneer.

The low-profile home page rollout comes just after online researchers reported that Yahoo has been taking it on the chin from from Microsoft's new Bing search tool. The new search service has been gaining some ground on Yahoo's coveted second-to-search-monolith-Google spot. One online traffic tracker even had the new Microsoft Bing offering already surpassing Yahoo's share of the search engine business.

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