Today, Yahoo invited a handful of “influencers” to have early access to their new product 360 degrees. Apparently, i’m one of them so i got to sit around a table at Yahoo, learn about the product and speak my mind. I have to say that i’m impressed that Yahoo folks wanted to hear all of our crankiness head-on rather than waiting for it to appear in our random ramblings online. Even better: they didn’t make us sign any NDAs so we can blog all we want. I lurve that.
So, the tool comes out in like a week. I don’t know how final the version that we saw today is, but i thought i’d offer some impressions based on what i saw since i know folks out there are curious.
360 will be invite-only but they are not seeding through employees, rather, they are seeding through active Yahoo users. This is actually very important because frankly, 360 isn’t meant for people like me (or like you). It’s meant for your average not-technically inclined individual who is scared of blogging but wants to share their thoughts, photos, and recommendations with their friends. Thus, before we all get into a blogizzy, it’s important to remember the target.
The feature set that i saw included integrated YIM, a blogging tool, a recommendations engine (linked to local), photos (linked to Y photos, not Flickr) and a social network. It’s all very integrated and emphasizes Yahoo products (although they were talking about connecting it with other products and they are doing some RSS stuff). Throughout all of this are heavy controls for privacy/publication, although it is all strict categorization schemes where you can make things available to groups (think: LJ).
Of course, it has all of the social problems of bi-directional, articulated social networks (nothing solved there). And the controls are really overwhelming. In fact, a lot of the product is overwhelming for the not-technically-savvy and i think that this will be their major problem unless they figure out how to slowly expose things (one of our strongest recommendations). For the techgeek, it will feel like they didn’t go far enough, didn’t have enough features, etc. That’s actually a lot easier to solve than the overwhelming problem and i expect they’ll build new features soon so i think that the techgeeks should wait. But i’m really worried about the novice user because it has many of the problems of blogging, privacy and social networks rolled into one big problem. Plus, you really need to be heavily integrated into the Yahoo network for it to really make sense.
Frankly, i think that they should take the word “blog” out of the picture entirely. While the service allows you to share your materials with layered groups of friends, the term ‘blog’ is intimidating to the mainstream who see it as publishing or otherwise uber-public. Since Yahoo isn’t requiring uber-public, i think that they should get rid of the term. We’ll see what happens.
Anyhow, my general impression is that i’m wary, but i don’t think that this is for me and i think it will be nice for the heavily integrated Yahoo user.