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Yahoo Fumbles Its Twitter Integration


Early tests offer confusing results.

Like the upbeat mutual friend caught between partisan infighting, Twitter has forged relationships with several bickering factions in the search-engine war. Already integrated in real time with Google (GOOG) and given a dedicated page on Bing (MSFT), the social network is now popping up in Yahoo (YHOO) search results, and plans are underway to fully implement a Twitter client into Yahoo pages later this year.

But the feature requires some major troubleshooting in its current state.

Similar to Twitter's integration with Google, related Twitter entries appear at the top of Yahoo search results. But unlike Google, the Twitter feed doesn't update in real time without refreshing the page or clicking the Twitter tab again. Moreover, the tab will navigate to Twitter's search page rather than incorporate the results within Yahoo if the page isn't fully loaded. So users accustomed to quick clicks will find themselves in a different area than they intended.

There's also a huge disparity on how Yahoo search results are displayed. Occasionally, Twitter results are available via tab. Other times, a tab will appear on the left margin. And most often, access to the Twitter feed isn't available at all.

For instance, a Yahoo search of "Oprah" will fetch tabs for Yahoo News and photo matches of Ms. Winfrey along with a prominent Twitter feed -- all above the rest of the results. Meanwhile, a search for Twitter extraordinaire Ashton Kutcher only brings up matching images, related search results, and a link to his Twitter account second from the bottom -- no Twitter tab at all. And of the three, fellow Twitter favorite Stephen Fry is the only person whose search query will bring up the Twitter tab on the left margin but not on top -- and that tab won't elicit real-time results.

Confused yet? How exciting does the feature seem now?

Yahoo users hoping to see this haphazard integration corrected may be left holding their breath. For years, the site's layout continues to be a jumbled array of news, ads, trends, slideshows, stocks, weather, etc. -- with updated layouts making very little progress. PC World's Jeff Bertolucci says it best: "Simply put, the Yahoo home page is too busy, messy, and uninviting." Compared to the cleaner and minimalist designs of Google and Bing, Yahoo is a cluttered eyesore.

And as a result, so is its Twitter integration.

In recent years, Yahoo's market share has plummeted against Google's, which holds a commanding 65%. But surprisingly, Yahoo has also lost a lot of ground from the rising popularity of Microsoft's Bing engine, which has seen its share increase to 11.3% in January. In a little over two years, Yahoo's has dropped to 17% from 23%.

Of course, there are dozens of reasons why Yahoo has rubbed visitors the wrong way -- only to lose them forever. But its cluttered execution can be placed near the top of the list. And unless the company addresses that issue in its next layout overhaul, no amount of Twitter result traffic will keep it from landing in a distant third.
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