Yahoo! moving to single profile – and everything goes social

In more stuff from the Web2.0 expo Techcrunch reported Yahoo!’s announcement that they will integrate all their services to be accessed via a single unified profile, and that they will make everything social.

For me this is a big deal – if you have one profile, you have one friends list which suddenly means everything can go social. 

The awesome part of that is that suddenly what my friends do can help me figure out what I want to do, across a whole range of services – from reading blogs, deciding what music to listen to or films to watch, or where to go on holiday.  That is what a single profile used across My Yahoo!, Yahoo! Music, Yahoo! Movies, and Yahoo! Travel could do. 

Plus they will be fully open to third party services, including making user data available.

I also like that they will be able to work out who your friends are
from Yahoo! Mail – the social graph derived from who you email is much
richer than anything Facebook has.

As Ari Balogh, Yahoo! CTO, says in the video on the Techcrunch post the social dimension adds community, relevance, and virality.  I agree, that is why I think it is so powerful.

It will be interesting to see if they get it right though, because I think the user interface will be very tricky.  There are two sides to this issue:

  1. Privacy – I need fine grained control over which parts of my activity are exposed to which of my friends, and
  2. Information overload – I will want an equally fine grained control over which parts of each of my friends activity goes into my feeds and filters.

That means we need a more sophisticated notions of groups than we have seen to date and then a way to set topics against those groups.

For me that would mean defining groups for family, friends and work – with some people featuring in more than one group.  Then I might share all my photos with the family group, some with the friends group (I don’t want to overwhelm them with the baby pics…) and probably not too many with the work group.  I’d share my music and videos with anyone who was interested, and pretty much the same with my blog reading and general web surfing, although I would need to be able to remove stuff from my history, so for example it isn’t obvious to the whole world when I’m about to make a new investment, or sell a company.

Then, to the second point, I want to be able to say ‘ignore everything apart from football’ from friends I put in a ‘football group’, select friends with similar taste in food to drive the relevancy of my restaurant choices, and so on.

Those are some pretty significant interface challenges.

The other obvious point relates to open-ness.  I don’t use many Yahoo! services right now, and I’m unlikely to switch en masse to their stuff, so unless they are as open as Ari claims they will be, and that open-ness is reciprocated by other services I want to use, then it may never get off the ground.

Exciting stuff!