With Facebook Connect Plans, Yahoo Makes Itself A Social Satellite

Yahoo has already integrated some Facebook features into its site, but now the formative web portal says it is about to go much further. In the first half of next year, it will implement Facebook Connect so users can see Facebook friends’ activity on Yahoo, share what they’re doing back to friends on Facebook — and hopefully, for Yahoo, create an upwards cycle of usage between the two sites.

This is on some ways analogous to Yahoo’s deal with Microsoft, where it agreed to cede core search features to the erstwhile rival. While Yahoo was never the leader in search — it allowed Google to become that, through an early business partnership — the company was, for many years, the main social site on the web. And, at one point it, almost bought Facebook for $1 billion.

While features like groups, chat, and message boards, have been key pieces of what makes the company valuable, in the past few years it hasn’t managed to get users adopting its in-house social networking efforts, like Yahoo 360.

Dubbed “Project Rushmore,”Facebook could be the first of a few sites that Yahoo tries to tap into in order to add additional social functionality — the others might include Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace, according to AllThingsD.

While the plan could lead to more traffic, it implicitly shows that Yahoo is not a platform for other companies to build on top of, but rather a third-party developer that relies on social platforms, Yahoo is now another planet in the solar system of social web sites. A big, Jupiter-like planet, to be sure, but not the sun.

The Facebook integration currently lets people sign into a part of the Yahoo home page using their Facebook accounts, see a stream of Facebook activity in a roll-over window within the page, use the Facebook Share button to share content to Facebook, and find Yahoo contacts who are also on Facebook.

Here’s some of what it will offer next year:

  • Share content more seamlessly into Facebook; two examples are photos from Flickr or comments on news stories
  • More direct integration into Yahoo sites, including Yahoo Mail and on properties like Yahoo News, Yahoo Sports, and Yahoo Finance.
  • View a feed of their friends’ related activity on Yahoo

This sounds a lot like what’s already available, so we’re assuming that the big differences will be in the interface. We imagine that Facebook data will be mixed in directly with comments, profiles, and other parts of the site, rather than being a layer on top like it is now.