Yahoo has gone on a spending spree, plucking properties with social networking mojo from the ripe fields of the Web, version 2.0. On Thursday, the company announced that it had acquired Bix.com, a site where users set up and run contests ranging from singing and talent shows to pure beauty pageants.
Where’s the beef?
The idea is simple: provide some rules for your contest, e.g. "A Cappella audio: Sing your favorite Osmonds tune," wait for some user-generated entries to drop in, and let anyone who wants vote for the winning entry. If shows like American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance taught us anything, it is that America is full of people who truly believe the are the next undiscovered superstar, and Bix capitalizes on that idea. Indeed, the site has been in negotiations with TV reality shows about using the site to screen prospective participants, though nothing has come of that effort yet.
Yahoo will let Bix run under its existing brand, much like del.icio.us and Flickr before it, but will presumably inject some Yahoo advertising and deep links to other suitably social Yahoo properties in an effort to grow the already humongous Yahoo user base. Yahoo will also reach out to third parties. Sometime in the near future, users should be able to run Bix contests on their Facebook or MySpace pages, for example, rather than being tied to the Bix site.
The 16-person Bix team is led by Epinions cofounder Mike Speiser, who now becomes a Yahoo vice president in charge of community sites like Yahoo Photos and Yahoo Groups. Yahoo management says that Bix could in the future become integrated with the company’s instant messenger tools, video sites, and other entertainment properties.
The other white meat
Bix is the big fish in Yahoo’s recent catch, but the small fry could prove tasty, too. The portal is picking up MyBlogLog, a social networking service for blog readers who want to connect with other readers of the same weblogs. If that isn’t a meta-service, I don’t know what is, but I can see the attraction in getting to know other readers with real-time chats and rich profile pages rather than through discussion board posts. There is no word on exactly what Yahoo intends to do with this property, but the smart money is on weaving MyBlogLog into Yahoo’s portfolio of services in much the same way as Bix.
Finally, we arrive in my motherland, where Yahoo found a Swedish company that specializes in bringing social networking tools to mobile devices like PDAs and cellphones. KenetWorks wants to change the role your cellphone plays in your daily life, so that "The community goes from being an inbox that you check every now and then, to being a place where you hang out."
Follow the Yellow Brick Road
The MyBlogLog deal reportedly cost Yahoo $10 million, but the company has declined to provide financial details on the other deals. We’re not talking about prices like the $1.65+ billion Google paid for YouTube, or even the $650 million News Corp coughed up to buy MySpace one year ago. These should be fairly safe bets for Yahoo, and it won’t hurt too much if they fail horribly.
If you’re finding it tough to keep up with all the acquisition announcements generated by Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft these days, you are not alone. Try this handy AJAX tool that tracks all these deals in a scrollable timeline graph to unscramble the wheeling and dealing somewhat.