Looking to kick-start a bigger presence in social networking, Yahoo launched a preview release of its Y! Kickstart site. The company described the new site as a professional network that intends "to connect college students, recent grads, professionals, and alumni" so they can exchange information about internships, jobs, or mentorships.
The site allows a user to create a professional profile, browse company profiles, and network with others. To encourage participation, Yahoo said it will donate $25,000 to the alumni association whose college has the most profiles by the end of this year.
Everyone Has a Network
Yahoo senior director of advanced products Scott Gatz wrote in a post on his blog that "submitting resumes to job sites or companies seems like a black hole" for many college students. He said that Kickstart is "based on the premise that everyone does have a network," including your college, fraternity or sorority, professional or interest group, and companies where you've worked.
Much of the reaction on the Internet to Yahoo's new social-networking initiative has been lukewarm. "Isn't everyone using Facebook already?" noted a user named sizzla on Releaselog.
Andy Beal, writing on Marketing Pilgrim, asked what the void is that Kickstart is looking to fill -- perhaps "that big gaping hole between Facebook and LinkedIn." Beal asked rhetorically if he can be introduced to "that person you met once at a conference" who felt that Facebook might be "a tad too whimsical" and LinkedIn "too vast" for a professional network.
The key idea that Yahoo is counting on, he pointed out, is the usefulness that people might get from capitalizing on their college association.
'Late in Coming to Market'
Making professional connections through college or company associations is part of a growing trend by job hunters, employers, and others using Web 2.0 tools. Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg said that, because of the popularity of social networking and this growing business trend, Kickstart "seems like a good idea at first glance."
But Yahoo is "late in coming to market" with this, he added. The other big sites already have captured a large percentage of those interested in social networking, he said, and "size and scale are the strengths" of a social network.
He said he wondered whether Kickstart would be able to occupy more than just a niche, and whether the niche is large enough to sustain the site. Gartenberg compared the current social-networking scene to instant messaging, in which there are a few big players. He noted that the lack of competition in IM and in social networking works to the benefit of users, at least at this point in the evolution of online sociability, because "the power of the network" is proportional to how big it is.
The key question for Yahoo, he said, is whether people will be willing to use another network even if they are already set up in Facebook, LinkedIn, or similar sites.