Friday, January 11, 2008

Yahoo! Soon Come 3.0

As anyone who has ever used a Java app from Yahoo! can tell you, response times are unusable even on the fastest phones, and if they had a QA team they should be shot, but they probably don't. Amid much fanfare at CES, Yahoo! launched Go 3.0 - have they got it right this time? Er, no. Maybe the Yahoo! JavaME development team is based in the Caribbean, working to a different pace of life where 2 seconds to respond to a key is cool, mon. Mi soon come.

How about the exciting widget support? I'm not a massive fan of widgets at the best of times, but it seems excessive to claim that a small piece of wap content magically becomes a widget when it is displayed in sssssslllllllllooooooowwwwwmmmmooooooo through Yahoo!'s UI.

So Yahoo! have actually just launched a very large (and expensive, for most users) download with much the same functionality as they had before. Hmmm.

The other Yahoo! release at CES was a new home page so revolutionary, the PR flak felt compelled to use every superlative in the English language at least once in the release. Some might say that this type of oversell usually appears when trying to sex-up a spectacularly uninteresting piece of non-news. Could this be the case here?

Well, when I first went to the site after reading the release (sneakily using Firefox to spoof a popular phone), I saw a message saying they weren't ready yet, with a nice screenshot of a graphics- and content-heavy homepage. The next morning it was still there, but after about 36 hours they'd got the real site up and suddenly all the graphics and style had been stripped out. I'll assume that if you are one of the lucky few in the US with one of the "iPhone, several Nokia Series 60 devices (or) select Windows Mobile devices" you'll be seeing something akin to that screenshot; this does directly contradict a lot of the amusing superlative in the release about addressing the wider global market with cutting-edge content etc, but I guess they were struggling even to hit the smaller target on time (soon come...).

As they're only targetting US users, who often are lucky enough to enjoy flat rate data, the very pretty graphics only slow the page download down without costing an arm and a leg every time the user visits, as they would in most of the rest of the world. Mobile designers tend to forget that the phone browser's cache tends to have a very limited lifespan (hours not months), but on a hypothetical fast cheap connection that wouldn't be fatal.

Seeing the design, however, the thing thats truck me most was the original Yahoo! portal clutter, which lost out heavily on the desktop web to the stripped down elegance of Google's home page. I'd be interested to see the user research that indicated mobile users want more clutter on their smaller screens - though I will happily admit that done right, a fully customisable portal could be nice (if a user bothered to use the service enough to customise it).

So all in all, lots of noise and not much content from Yahoo!. The only thing they appear to be getting right is the strategy of not creating a mobile OS, instead focussing on getting their core product out to every device possible - as soon as they can make that product worth using they'll be sorted, assuming that content is still relevant of course.