Technology & Science

Yahoo website to get a makeover

Yahoo Inc. is preparing to tweak several popular sections of its website, including its home page, during the next few months to accommodate more material from rival services as the internet company tries to polish its tarnished franchise.

Yahoo Inc. is preparing to tweak several popular sections of its website, including its home page, during the next few months to accommodate more material from rival services as the internet company tries to polish its tarnished franchise.

The makeover outlined for reporters Thursday represents a key step in Yahoo's push to regain the momentum that it lost while being outmanoeuvred by internet search rival Google Inc., and more recent upstarts like the rapidly growing online hangouts MySpace and Facebook.

Yahoo's profits have declined during the past two years, leading to a dramatic downturn in its market value that triggered an unsolicited takeover bid from Microsoft Corp. this year.

Since Microsoft withdrew its $47.5-billion US bid in May, Yahoo has been battling to boost its stock price, which recently sank to its lowest level in nearly five years. Yahoo shares climbed 85 cents, or almost five per cent, Thursday to close at $18.55, well below Microsoft's last offer of $33.

Boasting 500 million users worldwide, Yahoo is hoping to bounce back by becoming an even more indispensable vehicle for web surfers and advertisers. As part of that process, the Sunnyvale-based company has been spotlighting more content from other websites and extending its advertising network so it can run ads on more internet properties.

Yahoo plans to open up more with the first major redesign of its home page since May 2006.

The changes will enable Yahoo users to plant more mini-applications known as "widgets" on personalized versions of the home page, said Ash Patel, executive vice-president of the company's audience product division.

In a demonstration, Patel showed how Yahoo users subscribing to the online DVD rental service Netflix will soon be able to review their latest movie requests and ratings without leaving Yahoo's main page. Yahoo is hosting a conference for outside developers Friday in hopes of cultivating more applications for its new home page.

Patel declined to specify when the redesigned page will be unveiled, saying only that it will begin gradually within the next few months.

"You will see a rolling thunder kind of thing," he said.

Yahoo also plans to open up its music section to rival services like Apple Inc.'s iTunes and Amazon.com Inc. during the next few weeks, said Scott Moore, who runs Yahoo's media operations. Moore said Yahoo's news section also will start to feature more local content from newspapers around the nation.

Another one-time internet darling, Time Warner Inc.'s AOL, announced a similar redesign this week, opening its home page to content from rival companies in a bid to broaden its appeal to users who have endless choices online.

Yahoo aiming to boost revenue

On the marketing front, Yahoo still plans to begin an advertising partnership with Google next month despite an intensifying antitrust investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.

Yahoo thinks it can boost its annual revenue by $800 million US by relying on Google's technology to sell some of the ads on its website, but the partnership has raised concerns about diminished competition because the two companies combined control more than 80 per cent of the U.S. search advertising market.

In a move that could foreshadow a formal legal challenge, the Justice Department has hired an antitrust lawyer to review the evidence collected in an inquiry that began even before Yahoo announced its partnership plans with Google in June.

Either Google or Yahoo can cancel the partnership beginning Oct. 11 to avoid or resolve an antitrust lawsuit filed by the government, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.