Kara Swisher

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Yahoo’s “Project Rushmore” Begins With Massive Facebook Connect Deployment Across Internet Giant


A few weeks ago, several sources at Yahoo begin telling BoomTown about a mysterious “Project Rushmore,” which was described as a massive integration of major social networking sites across the giant Internet portal.

Now, the first unveiling of Project Rushmore comes with this morning’s announcement that Yahoo (YHOO) will be integrating Facebook Connect with its many properties–from its powerful media sites to its Flickr photo service to its email.

Once deployed–in the first half of next year, said Yahoo–Yahoo users can monitor their full Facebook feed on the site and Facebook users will have their Yahoo activity displayed on their news feed, if they choose to.

The companies said no money will be exchanged in the five-year deal; nor will there be any other financial or advertising element.

This is a major step for Yahoo, which has long touted its openness, and a significant upgrade to the company’s relationship with Facebook.

It’s also more than ironic, as Yahoo had been very close to acquiring Facebook for just over $1 billion several years ago, in a should-have deal that went south.

Currently, Facebook users can update their status and access their stream via an app on the Yahoo homepage. They can also share to Facebook using buttons on Yahoo, and Facebook can access contacts on Yahoo.

But the relationship between the pair–which have some of the largest audiences on the Web between them–has been relatively thin until now.

This has been a glaring problem for Yahoo, which has also promised a lot of socialization throughout the service, but has not really provided it for users. The company hopes this tight link with the fast-growing Facebook will send users back to Yahoo.

Facebook–via Facebook Connect, which allows users to log on to participating sites with their identity on the service–is perhaps the bigger winner here.

The huge amount of data from the activities from one of the most trafficked sites on the Web–with upward of 500 million users–will further solidify its growing role as a central hub of a user’s Web life.

Another irony: This was the role Yahoo held for many years and has been losing to, yes, Facebook.

Yahoo is still aiming to be the central hub for a lot of people too, said Jim Stoneham, Yahoo’s VP of Communities, who noted that slightly more than half of Yahoo users also have Facebook accounts.

“That’s highly relevant that a lot of people use both,” said Stoneham. “So, there should be a strong bond across both sites.”

Added Stoneham: “This will be a done on a deep level into Yahoo.”

Stoneheam declined to comment on whether and when the service would be striking similar deals with other networking sites.

But sources told me that Twitter and LinkedIn are likely candidates, as well as MySpace.

That would, of course, account for the four presidential stone faces on Mount Rushmore–George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

Other big Internet companies are getting into the social act. Separately, both Microsoft (MSFT) and Google (GOOG) recently struck a data-mining deal with Twitter and Microsoft also did so with Facebook.

So, such an overall move by Yahoo is an important and necessary one–and also very late in coming–since it completely missed the social networking train and needs to figure out how to be part of it in a way that is useful to users and open.

“This relationship pushes us really far forward [toward openness],” said Cody Simms, senior director of product management for Yahoo’s open strategy. “And it helps our users be more social, which they want to be wherever they are.”

And presumably, Yahoo hopes these moves will keep users on Yahoo a little longer while doing that.

Here is the full blog post from Yahoo’s Yodel Anecdotal by Stoneham:

Update once to share with many on Yahoo! and Facebook

Posted December 2nd, 2009 at 6:29 am by Lucas Mast, Blog Editor

We have good news to share with everyone who uses Yahoo! and Facebook–in the first half of 2010 we will open the door between two of the Internet’s largest online communities. You will be able to see your Facebook friends’ activities on Yahoo! and share Yahoo! content–ratings, photos, article comments, and more–directly on your Facebook stream. We’re doing this by deeply integrating a service called Facebook Connect across Yahoo! properties worldwide, which we announced today.

As the place where over 500 million people visit every month, Yahoo!’s goal is to bring together social experiences from across the web, and provide one place for people to access information and stay in touch with the people they care about most.

Yahoo!’s integration of Facebook Connect will provide you with richer experiences across the Yahoo! products you use every day, such as Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Answers and Yahoo! Sports. In the future, you’ll be able to choose where you want to update your status message–from destinations across Yahoo!–or directly on Facebook.

We are doing this as part of our commitment to deliver more personally relevant Internet experiences, so watch for more details in the New Year!

Jim Stoneham, VP of Communities for Yahoo!

And, if you are a glutton for punishment, here’s the full press release from Yahoo:

Yahoo! Extends Facebook Integration to Bring Together Social Experiences From Across the Web

SUNNYVALE, Calif., Dec. 2, 2009–Continuing its commitment to be the center of people’s online lives, Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO) today announced further integration with Facebook that unites social experiences from across the Web to provide a place for consumers to enjoy meaningful content and stay in touch with the people they care about most.

“With this integration, we are opening the door for two of the Internet’s largest online communities to make it easier for people to stay connected,” said Jim Stoneham, vice president of Communities for Yahoo!. “It also enables us to further the Yahoo! Open Strategy, which is aimed at making experiences dramatically more open, social and personally relevant for the more than 500 million people that visit Yahoo! each month.”

Yahoo!’s Facebook Connect integration will give consumers richer experiences on Yahoo!, including in Yahoo! Mail and on properties like Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Sports, and Yahoo! Finance. It will enable them to connect with Facebook friends on Yahoo!, view a feed of their friends’ related activity on Yahoo!, and share content–such as photos from Flickr or comments on news stories–with all of their friends on Facebook. The content that consumers share with Facebook friends will then create a loop that drives visitors back to Yahoo!.

This partnership extends the current Facebook integration on Yahoo! which enables Facebook users to access their stream and update their status from the Yahoo! homepage, provides “Share on Facebook” options across the Yahoo! network, and allows Facebook to access Yahoo! Contacts. People using both Yahoo! and Facebook will soon be able to share updates across both networks, creating a richer and more relevant social experience by connecting the broad range of Yahoo! content and services with their friends on Facebook.

“As one of the largest sites on the Web, Yahoo! is an ideal partner to integrate with Facebook Connect, enabling users to share meaningful content with their friends on Facebook from Yahoo’s wide range of category-leading properties,” said Ethan Beard, director of Facebook Developer Network.

The integration is expected to begin in the first half of 2010.

[Photo credit: Dean Franklin under the Creative Commons attribution license.