Friday interview: Yahoo's Mitch Lazar on mobile social networking

Mobile phones

Mitch%20Lazar%20Sept%2006.jpgThere’s huge amounts of interest around mobile social networking right now, and in particular over who’s best placed to make the most of it. Following Tech Digest’s feature on the issue, and the follow-up interview with MTV’s Angel Gambino, now another big name joins the debate.

Mitch Lazar is vice president of business development for Yahoo’s Connected Life initiative, so is heavily involved in Yahoo’s mobile ambitions – including bringing its social networking and Web 2.0 properties to mobile. Read on to see what he has to say.

How well will sites like MySpace, Bebo etc transfer to mobile?

As mobile phone functionality increases (radio, internet, e-mail, camera) so does their role in everyday life. For example, we’re all taking photos on our phones now which means we can visually, as well as vocally, share our experiences as we have them. By opening the door of on-line communities to mobile device interaction we give access to a whole new universe of contributors and users.

For example, Yahoo! has made Flickr available by mobile – users can take, upload, and tag photos straight from their Nokia phones and share them with global communities. In time other services like Yahoo! Answers, our new social search service, will then be a natural extension… users asking other users questions as they think of them.

Will they dominate the mobile social networking space, or will they face stiff competition from mobile startups, or even the operators?

Users rally around known brands and sources, going where the communities are. Yahoo! has around 500 million users many of whom have invested time in our products like Mail and like our blog service 360, and as such are rooted there. No doubt new entrants will emerge but that’s the nature of the environment.

What challenges will they face?

We recognise that there will, of course, continue to be technological challenges such as multiple formats and screen size etc. Our strategy is to work through them in partnerships, with content owners, device manufacturers and operators, to provide a high quality mobile internet experience.

For example, earlier this year we launched our Yahoo! Go for Mobile client, which allows consumers to access their favourite Y! services including Mail, Messenger, Search and Photos all in one place on their phone.

We partner with handset manufacturers including Nokia and Motorola as well as operators Hutchinson 3 in Europe to increase awareness and availability of the product, and believe that these partnerships are proving to work to everybody’s advantage.

Stuart Dredge
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