After much behind the scene whispering and strategic peeks that were allowed to influential individuals, Yahoo! 360 was released today. I wondered why the release was by invitation only but upon the gates being opened, the answer was obvious. When the base group of beta testers began to invite friends and those friends then began to invite people, the groups began to grow quickly. One can imagine the cascading effect caused membership to grow very quickly. I received my first invitation within just a few hours. I was more interested in this as another strong blogging tool with a few extras thrown in on the side to make it interesting.
I quickly accepted the invitation and was taken to my new Yahoo! 360 page and found that it consisted of modules for my profile, my photo, a music section, my current Yahoo! groups, my friends, lists (interests, music preferences, books, movies, and TV shows), a section for reviews (restaurants, hairdressers, etc.), photos, an extended profile (including places I’ve lived, schools I’ve attended, etc.), a blast (announcement), and a blog. Members can set up one or all sections. Members also have the ability to restrict different people from seeing one or more modules, while letting others see them. The result of the invitations, the modules, and the connectivity of one’s present circle of friends, is a community area where friends can keep up with each other and share news and information.
I had expressed concern in a previous post that Yahoo!, in their effort to make this very user-friendly, would over simplify it. In my opinion, this is what happened. Much like some of the online web hosts that provide a program that can generate a web page for someone who does not know HTML, ease of use is achieved at the expense of freedom and power. Much of what I’ve seen and worked with in Yahoo! 360 reminds me of a cookie cutter approach. Everyone simply fills in the same blanks for the profile information, group registration, and lists. Everyone has the same modules. Everyone’s page tends to look alike. There are no templates. Everything, from my experience with it, comes only in plain vanilla. It reminded me of the line attributed to Henry Ford when he was asked about the colors of his new cars. “People,” he said, “can have any color they want as long as it’s black.” I found that to be true here. On the bright side, there are no ads.
The blog section is rather simplistic. A simple post with a title is easy to do. Text manipulation is limited to bolding, coloring, highlighting and italicizing text. Different fonts are not supported. Numbered or bulleted lists can be created and blocks of text can be indented. One can include hyperlinks and emoticons. The footer includes the date and time. Comments are allowed and each post is given a permalink. Photos can be uploaded, but the system supports JPEG files only. A blogroll is provided and there is the ability to blog from your cell phone, although the shear labor of doing it on that little key pad cancels out any enjoyment that I would receive from being able to do accomplish it. RSS 2.0 feeds will be coming soon. I found no indication that posts could be put into categories. I also saw no archiving structure to speak of.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Yahoo!. I have subscriptions to many of their services. But Yahoo! 360 left me a little disappointed and under-whelmed. The service came across as too one-dimensional to me. Charlene Li stated that this is a true beta and that changes will be coming soon, as well as when bugs and suggestions are sent in by the beta-testers. As it is, I see this being useful for families or close friends who live far away from each other to keep in touch. More likely, teenagers will make groups of their friends. But even in these cases, I think people will turn to their cell phones and text messages instead of spending time on 360. I doubt I use the service too much and, after the “new” wears off, I don’t think others will either. If you’re looking for a good blogging tool, you’re better off getting a Typepad or Blogger account.
My Ratings (out of five loops possible):
Ease of Use