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Yahoo tests blend of blogging

Yahoo Inc. is preparing to introduce a new service that blends several of its Web site's popular features with two of the Internet's fastest growing activities -- blogging and social networking.

The hybrid service, called "Yahoo 360," won't be available until March 29, but the Sunnyvale-based company decided to announce the product late Tuesday after details were leaked to The Associated Press and other news outlets.Yahoo is testing the service with a small group of employees, some of whom have been working on the project since last year when the product was operating under the code name "Mingle."

The service is designed to enable Yahoo's 165 million registered users to pull content from the Web site's discussion groups, online photo albums and review section to plug into their own Web logs, or blogs, the Internet shorthand used to describe online personal journals.

Yahoo also is making it easier for the service's users to connect with others who share common interests and friends -- a practice known as social networking. Participants can either choose to open their blogs to the entire world or restrict access to people invited through e-mail.

"We heard from people that they have a strong desire to stay close to the people who are important to them, but at the same time they didn't want to feel like they were exposing themselves online," said Julie Herendeen, Yahoo's vice president of network products.

The service represents Yahoo's effort to tap into the popularity of blogs and social networking sites. Expanding into social networking and blogging mark another significant step in Yahoo's push to make its Web site even more essential to the personal and professional pursuits of its users.

The service is also meant to encourage Yahoo's most frequent visitors to create and share more content, a process the company hopes will attract even more people to its site. If it can increase its audience's size and give visitors more reasons to stick around longer, Yahoo would become an even more attractive marketing vehicle for advertisers.

When it becomes available later this month, Yahoo 360 initially will be restricted to users invited by the company. Those early participants will then be able to invite others.



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