Yahoo! Feeling Antisocial

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"Thanks for trying Kickstart," reads the now-static landing page for Yahoo!'s (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) employment-hunting social network. "Please check out Yahoo! HotJobs for your job-search needs."

How's that for a "don't call us, we'll call you" sendoff?

Kickstart is -- make that was -- a more recent effort by Yahoo! to cash in on elusive social-networking success. It seemed like a bold initiative when first proposed two summers ago. Just as Facebook was expanding its reach beyond the college crowd, Kickstart was supposed to swoop in as a more serious connection tool for college kids more interested in firing off resumes than polishing off beer kegs.

In a perfect world, Kickstart would have made HotJobs a hipper place to recruit college grads than the blander job boards offered by Monster (Nasdaq: MWW  ) and Dice Holdings (NYSE: DHX  ) . But in the end, Kickstart just never quite lived up to its self-starter moniker.

Yahoo! also recently shuttered Mash, the company's more conventional social-networking site, before it even had a full year under its belt. It's a miracle that Yahoo! 360 is still around. 

Doesn't Yahoo! get it? When Yahoo! President Sue Decker called Yahoo! Mail a "dormant social network" last year, with 250 million accounts at the time, Yahoo! seemed to have the necessary tools to create the mother of all social-networking sites. Why is it shutting sites down without giving them a real chance, mocking the time and effort put in by loyal users? At this rate, if and when Yahoo! puts out a real social-networking site, it'll be hard for wary potential users to take it seriously.

Social stickiness doesn't happen overnight. Even the typically smart Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) is closing down its Lively avatar-driven virtual environment. Google's single social networking hit is Bebo, but that was an acquisition, not an in-house development.

Yahoo! is in cost-cutting mode so it needs to prioritize, but the success of Facebook and News Corp.'s (Nasdaq: NWS  ) MySpace should prove that Yahoo! must make social networking a priority.

Otherwise, on some not-too-distant day, the Yahoo! landing page may thank users for trying the site, and direct them to Google or for their search needs.

Yahoo!'s social miscues:

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of Yahoo! and Microsoft, but not of bad weddings. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool's disclosure policy plays well with others.

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  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2008, at 6:36 PM, moof77 wrote:

    I'm afraid it's the author who "doesn't get it" - Yahoo doesn't need to build another social networking site. In fact, Yahoo already is one giant social networking site - it just hasn't been fully realized yet. That's what Sue was talking about with Yahoo Mail, and that's what we're starting to see more of with all their recent product launches. Your social network is already built into Yahoo in the form of your address book, your fantasy sports leagues, your Messenger buddy list, your Flickr contacts, etc. Those relationships just need to be aggregated and made actionable. Building yet another social networking site would be a waste of time and money - better off turning all of Yahoo into one big network that's driven by social interactions, and that's what's going on now.

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