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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 May 2006, 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK
Yahoo homepage to get make-over
The new Yahoo homepage, Yahoo
Users can personalise the new Yahoo homepage
Search site Yahoo is changing its main page to match the efforts of rivals to do more for visitors.

Like Google and Microsoft, Yahoo is introducing clickable tools to let users customise what they see.

Alongside the search box will be an assistant that tells people if new messages are in their Yahoo e-mail inbox, a section for popular searches and an expanded news section.

Yahoo said the revamp was the biggest change its homepage had undergone.

Site search

The new homepage will be available as a beta, or test, version for the next month to assess how users repond to the alterations.

In making the changes, Yahoo is the last of the big three search firms to re-focus its main web presence on what users want to do.

The changes will be seen on the Yahoo homepages in the US, UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

The new look pages aim to move away from the old-fashioned static site where people were simply presented with a page listing everything a web portal did.

The Yahoo homepage as it used to look, Yahoo
The old homepage crammed a lot into a small space

Instead, users will be able to customise what they see, remove the bits they never look at and add those others parts of the Yahoo empire that they regularly use.

In addition they will be able to change the layout and the colour of the page.

All the big three search sites - Yahoo, Google and MSN - are striving to become the indispensable net companion for their users.

All three are keen to get people using only their portfolio of services largely because they generate a lot of their revenue from advertising.

For these firms, every user that visits a rival page means lost money.

Many sites that have built up a strong following since their creation, such as Flickr and Bloglines, have been bought by either the big search outfits or those with ambitions to become a big net player.

The driving force behind these acquisitions has been the desire to get hold of ready-made communities to sell to.

Custom look

MSN, Microsoft's web portal, is also in the process of changing its front page.

The beta version of the new page also lets visitors tweak the page's colour scheme and adjust what is displayed. The Windows Live page is also a showcase for personalisation technologies.

Although Google's iconic search page has remained the same, it has introduced a personalised page that people can customise. This lets users create their own starting page that can display bookmarks, search history, news feeds and links to other Google services such as GMail.

It is not just the biggest sites that are trying to adapt to users' needs.

In March this year, search site Ask underwent a revamp too.

The most high profile casualty of that change was the iconic valet Jeeves which disappeared from the site's main page. Prior to being cut, the Jeeves character had been associated with Ask for a decade.

During its revamp, Ask introduced a range of search tools alongside the main box for search terms. These let people refine what they are looking for, save their results or carry out very specific searches.

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