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Yahoo Personalizes Shopping, Adds Community Features

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Continuing its efforts to tap into personal and collective knowledge in search, Yahoo has enhanced its shopping service with a number of useful features, debuting what it calls the "shoposphere."

Yahoo Shopping's shoposphere is a new form of social commerce where the Yahoo user community can get involved in commerce without having to worry about any infrastructure.

A new feature called "pick lists" (as in my recommended picks) allows users to create and assign a theme to lists, then add product results from Yahoo Shopping search to the lists. Pick lists are now a prominent feature of shopping search results, with both new lists and those most highly rated by other users included in addition to traditional product information.

"What drove us to start thinking about commerce in a new way was the amount of information that's out there," said Rob Solomon, vice president and general manager of Yahoo Shopping.

Yahoo Shopping now features more than 75 million product offers, and will likely have more than 100 million by the end of the year, according to Solomon.

Each of these products is presented in a new overview page, with product details, coupons, user reviews and ratings and other information all incorporated onto a single page, rather than accessible via links. This makes it easier to get a more comprehensive snapshot of a product than before.

Pick lists are also featured prominently in search results. In addition to being able to create your own pick lists, you can comment on or share other users' pick lists.

"We think that personalization and community filters are going to be an important part of the shopping experience going forward," said Solomon.

You can create different lists for different purposes, such as product comparisons, wish lists, favorite products and so on. Lists can be easily shared with others, either via email or RSS feeds. You can also make your list public, so that it may be displayed in search results.

Yahoo sees these lists evolving into an almost bloglike product where consumers can express their opinions about products, and eventually share revenue should their product selections result in a sale via Yahoo shopping.

This should encourage users to create lists on all manner of products, drawing on their own expertise that might be unique. "This really exposes the long tail of products, and its a new type of merchandising," said Chris Saito, senior director of product management for Yahoo Shopping.

Reviews will also be linked via Yahoo's 360 social network service, and you'll be able to see immediately if a reviewer is in your Yahoo 360 community.

As it has with virtually all of its new product developments recently, Yahoo is also offering open APIs for the web development community to create new applications using the tools and data available in Yahoo shopping. For more information on Yahoo's APIs, see the Yahoo Developer page.

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