Yahoo! Has My Attention

I’ve always been an early adopter of most technology, dating back to the early 90’s when I was one of the first people on my college campus to learn HTML. But as life has become busier and more complex, my tolerance for technology – everything from mobile apps to routers – has significantly decreased. But conversely, give me something with a great user interface that will be useful on a regular basis, and you have my attention.  Yahoo! now has my attention.

Like many others, I stopped using Yahoo! Mail years ago when my inbox was 99% spam. And I stopped using Yahoo! Search when Google came along. Prior to that, I always found their UI’s to be unnecessarily busy and cluttered. The one product that I have continued to use, Fantasy Football, is fine but never had a useful iOS app.

Yahoo!’s newest CEO, Marissa Mayer, who has been on the job for one year, has vowed to focus on mobile. And while earnings recently fell short of expectations, Mayer has people talking again about Yahoo! And most importantly, she has former customers like myself using her products. I’m of the belief that if you offer products and services that people can’t live without, the earnings will follow. (See, e.g., Apple.) And in just a short time, I can’t live without Yahoo! Weather (iPhone only, free) on my iPhone.

I was pleasantly surprised two months ago when a Twitter user innocuously posted that Yahoo! had released a lovely, useful weather app. Despite the built-in weather app in iOS and five other weather apps on my iPhone and iPad, none combined a beautiful UI with useful data. Each app had one or the other, but none had both. But Yahoo!’s does just that, offering a simple, quick look at the current weather, forecast and more in conjunction with beautiful photography courtesy of Flickr. It has since been my go-to weather app.

As for Yahoo! Fantasy Sports (universal, free), it has been a mainstay for fantasy players for years. It was one of the first really useful services that Yahoo! provided, and while it remains one of the top fantasy destinations, ESPN and CBS have infiltrated the space with great web and iOS products that allow users to easily manage their teams. (The iOS component is crucial. When you’re on a beer run 30 minutes before kickoff and TeamStream alerts you that your starting running back was arrested last night and is ineligible for the day’s game – a totally realistic scenario, by the way – you need a way to replace him while waiting to pay for that 6-pack of Rising Tide.) But Yahoo! has not given up, releasing their new Fantasy Sports app in late July. With live scoring, roster management, breaking news and message boards, the app looks to be one of the best available.

As for email, the last thing I need is another email address and third-party app. I have email addresses through my own domains, iCloud, Gmail, work, the new Outlook and who knows where else. But out of curiosity, I downloaded the new Yahoo! Mail iOS app (universal, free) and logged in with my 15-year old credentials. (Yes, I know I should change the password.) Sure enough, its UI is as beautiful, minimal and useful as Yahoo!’s weather app. I don’t know if I’ll have a need to actively use my Yahoo! email address, but knowing there is a great iOS app available, I certainly won’t hesitate to use it if the need arises.

Yahoo!’s offerings go beyond weather, mail and fantasy sports. While I personally don’t use Flickr or Yahoo! Finance a lot, those are services that won’t hurt Yahoo!.  However, I’m dubious about the need for and growth of Messenger, as less and less people use instant messaging services, as well as IntoNow, a recently-acquired social networking service. The last thing people need is another place where their aunt will post inappropriate family information. I also disagree that there is space for Yahoo! search to gain traction (Mayer said “Search is far from over”). Google has had that covered for a long time; it is ubiquitously Google.

But nitpicking aside, Yahoo!’s products are absolutely improving under Mayer. They now have my attention. Can they keep it?

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