Page last updated at 09:29 GMT, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 10:29 UK

Yahoo's front page makeover

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

Yahoo front page
Overhauling its flagship site is one of Yahoo's biggest undertakings this year

Yahoo has unveiled sweeping changes to its front page aimed at shoring up its position as the main portal to the web.

Consumers in the US are the first to benefit from a new, customisable format which lets them link to third parties like Google and Twitter.

The new style will be introduced to parts of Europe and India later this week and Asia later in the year.

"We want to be at the centre of people's lives online," said Yahoo's consumer experiences head Tapan Bhat.

"There is a destination for everything you are about in just a click or two. Now we are looking at Yahoo holistically, all centred around the user," Mr Bhat told reporters in a conference call.

The key is personalisation and the biggest change involves a bar on the left hand side of the page, called My Favorites. Here, users can customise links to Yahoo and other services they use the most from news to social networks to email to movies.

While there are over 60 of these applications at the moment, consumers can add their own by typing in web addresses.

There are also plans to allow other software developers to design their own, more sophisticated applications that people can add.

"The new homepage is designed to make Yahoo the web's number one destination portal by once again giving people one place to access everything," said Ben Parr, associate editor of social media blog Mashable.com.

'Gateway to the web'

Yahoo has described the overhaul as the most "radical" and "fundamental" make-over of the site since it began more than a decade ago.

Yahoo front page
The make-over was known internally as Metro

Changes to its front page were announced back in October 2007 and the company began testing with users around a year ago.

At its annual shareholder meeting last month, Yahoo's chief executive officer Carol Bartz said the redesign was on target for completion by the autumn.

Yahoo's front page is seen as vital to the company's future and is regarded as prime real estate because it serves as an entry point for users, and as a result commands premium advertisement prices.

"Yahoo has been losing ground as a gateway to the web with individual services ranging from Google to Facebook to Twitter," said Business Week's Rob Hof.

"So a home page that can connect them in one fell swoop to those services is its only hope to maintain its status as a key starting point on the internet - and one of the few places online where advertisers can reach a TV-sized audience."

An estimated 570 million people visit Yahoo every month.

'Renaissance'

The launch of the new home page comes as speculation and rumour mount that Yahoo is near to finalising a deal with Microsoft over a search and advertising partnership.

The company is also facing increasing competition from the software giant following the release of its Bing internet search engine last month.

Bing screenshot (Microsoft)
Microsoft's Bing search engine is giving Yahoo some competition

There is little doubt that Yahoo is hoping this overhaul will revitalise both the company itself and the way it is viewed.

"It marks the beginning of a renaissance of Yahoo, a renaissance where every pixel matters," said Yahoo's Mr Bhat.

While it is too early to tell how successful the changes will be, industry watchers say they are impressed.

"Time will tell if it is a success, but it is certainly a good and even innovative effort, in much the same spirit as Microsoft has had with its new Bing search offering," said Kara Swisher from AllThingsD.

"And while some might complain it is not 'cutting edge' enough, it seems just the right amount of re-jiggering and open feel for the mass of users it serves."

Users who want to take advantage of the new home page will have to opt-in and click on a link to select the new design.



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SEE ALSO
Microsoft ends Yahoo buyout talks
20 Nov 08 |  Business
Google abandons deal with Yahoo
05 Nov 08 |  Business
Carol Bartz: 'the safe pick'
13 Jan 09 |  Technology
Yahoo starts front page overhaul
19 Sep 08 |  Technology
Microsoft promises 'search 2.0'
28 May 09 |  Technology

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