Will My Yahoo make personalization matter?

Update below: My Yahoo gets a facelift. My Netscape gets a face lift.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Update below: My Yahoo gets a facelift. My Netscape gets a face lift. Both are snazzy Web 2.0 contraptions. The big question: Will these efforts increase the usage of personalization on the Web?

The My Yahoo beta is much prettier than its previous version. When I checked it out I said "neat." I also realized I had a My Yahoo page that I haven't been visited for more than a year. I even have a nanotechnology portfolio listed for giggles (that was so 2003 or 2004).

As many have noted My Yahoo is the largest personalized homepage around. It has 50 million monthly users worldwide. That's a big number right? It's not that big when you consider there are 250 million Yahoo Mail users around the world.

If you assume Yahoo Mail users are loyal Yahoo customers then only a fifth of them bother with My Yahoo. I'm in the majority that hasn't done squat with my personal Yahoo page. In fact, I've created a lot of personalized pages and portfolios. And I can't say I've watched them for more than a day or two. Yahoo Finance does remember some customized indices (love that Vix) I track when I log in, but that's about the extent of my personalization efforts.

So as we marvel at My Yahoo's category pages, movable modules and feed previews here's the larger question we should be asking: Why after 10 years of personalization aren't people using these pages more? Another question: Will Web 2.0 be the thing that brings more people to the personalization bandwagon? Consider that My Yahoo has been around 10 years and the best it could do is add 5 million user accounts a year. At Yahoo's scale that's paltry (and My Yahoo is considered a success).

I don't have a clear answer why we don't personalize more, but my own behavior indicates:

  • I'm a creature of habit and go to the same sites everyday so why personalize?
  • I don't care about "my" world. Show me something new;
  • I get bored with content buckets that I've created after a day;
  • I'm just lazy and don't want to take the effort to personalize things (although I have customized CBS Sportsline's fantasy football sites for three years).

Perhaps RSS feeds have replaced the need for personalized home pages. But 50 million folks using My Yahoo in a sea of Yahoo users raises some interesting questions. Shouldn't it be 100 million or so? I don't have the answers, but would love to hear some alternative theories.

Update 3:39 a.m. PST: Pageflakes CEO Dan Cohen responded to the My Yahoo move. He used to be in charge of My Yahoo. Here's what he had to say:

"The new My Yahoo is a step forward but misses the mark.  It is more about Yahoo! and less about today's users of the Web, who expect more from their personalized page.  Their new personalization feature steers you towards Yahoo! services while restricting access to others like Google and MySpace.  The new version limits user choice because it isn’t open to developers.  Lastly, you can’t publish your personalized page on the web,collaborate on your page with others."

Editorial standards