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Yahoo! Launches Social Commerce Beta

Yahoo! has once again demonstrated its leadership position in social media with the beta release of Shoposphere and Pick Lists (see also Yahoo! Ahead of Google on Social Media). This new service uses shopper reviews, ratings and categorization to organize information and more efficiently match consumer search behavior with products and services. According to David Beach and Vivek Gupta of Yahoo!,

"With Pick Lists, users can share their knowledge about products they’ve researched for the benefit of the community. Anyone can view a Pick List in the Shoposphere, rate it, and comment on it. What we like most is that Pick Lists show off the 'long tail' of shopping search. It’s not just about digital cameras and iPods, but anything you can think of. You can peruse Pick Lists for such delights as fake food, denim leg warmers, and fuel cell experiment kits. And, we've also integrated the Yahoo! 360 social network into Pick Lists (and user reviews) so you can see if you’re connected to the creator of the content."

I spent a little time playing around with the beta service, specifically product category browsing. Despite access to "long tail" products and community recommendations, top-level product categories seemed to be dominated by items and lists most frequently accessed (i.e., sorted by popularity). A nice enhancement would be the addition of an "intent filter," which would bias results towards either the head (popular) or tail (niche) of the product distribution curve. Yahoo! is already working on this technology with Mindset. This technology provides a slide-bar interface that lets you adjust the weight given to "research" or "shopping" intent when ranking search results. 

As Yahoo!'s social commerce applications evolve, it will be interesting to see how their ranking algorithms weight recency, frequency and subjective shopper ratings in determining top-level product information (not to mention how contextual advertising fits in the picture). But, the fact that Yahoo! continues to innovate in the social media arena is a powerful sign of things to come. I only wonder if Amazon will try to exercise their consumer review patents? (Read more on Amazon's recent patent victories).

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November 15, 2005 | Permalink

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