(Corrects the number of Yahoo e-mail users to a quarter billion from a quarter million in seventh paragraph)
By Eric Auchard
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Yahoo Inc YHOO.O is testing an experimental social network service called Mash that makes it easy for Yahoo users to share tidbits of their lives with friends and family online, the company said on Sunday.
Mash, to which a limited number of public users began being invited as testers on Friday, was described by a spokeswoman as a new, next-generation service that is independent from the company’s 2-1/2 year-old Yahoo 360 degree profile service.
While Yahoo was early among Internet companies to embrace the trend toward sharing media with friends by purchasing start-ups like photo site Flickr.com, it has struggled to take part in the Web’s biggest new trend: Social networking.
Mash amounts to a new stab at competing with the likes of News Corp’s NWSa.N MySpace, Facebook, Bebo or Google’s Orkut, which have attracted tens of millions of users worldwide.
The Silicon Valley company emphasized it is in the early stages of testing the new service. One aspect of the service is the power it gives users to edit their friends profiles and add personal blurbs, subject to approval by the profile owner.
“Ongoing product innovation is important to Yahoo and we continue to test various products and services to gain feedback from our users. Mash, an experimental profile service, is an example of this ongoing testing,” a company statement said.
Eventually, Mash could connect to a variety of existing Yahoo services and mini-applications known as Widgets, acting as a personal profile both on the public Internet or among a private group of friends, depending on individual preference. Yahoo has upward of 500 million monthly users of its various services including a quarter billion Yahoo Mail e-mail users.
Separately, Yahoo said on Friday it had acquired for undisclosed terms a company called BuzzTracker.com.
The two-year-old start-up is an online news service that monitors 110,000 different sources — both traditional media and blogs — to identify hot topics.
On its site, BuzzTracker promises to offer users a way to create customized news feeds around a limitless number of topics of their own choosing. It gives Yahoo an alternative to rival Google News, which aggregates together news on various topics from a variety of conventional media sources.
The company’s Chief Executive Alan Warms will run Yahoo News as its general manager, according to Warms blog.