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When To Yahoo and When Not To - Part 2
TEST DRIVE by Andrew Goodman, June 14, 2000
| << Go to Part 1 of this story

Here's the second instalment in this feature which considers the dilemma of when to Yahoo! and when not to. Your mileage may vary.

6. Auctions

Yahoo! may be a popular destination for those interested in online auctions, but unless you've been on a desert island for the past four years, you know that eBay still rules the auction space. (Not in Europe, of course, where the leader is And this matters, since an auction site gets better as there are more buyers and sellers in any given category.

A test drive of Yahoo! Auctions will probably surprise you. In many ways, it's better than eBay. Searching is simple, and the site is clean and fast. The fact that it can be integrated with your Yahoo! login is a plus.

But because there are buyers and sellers dispersed around different auction sites - eBay, Amazon, UBid, MSN Auctions, and a dozen other major players, you'll be better off playing the field. An auction participant needs to proceed on the assumption that bargains are the exception rather than the rule. Everyone will be searching for a cheap, good notebook computer. If you want it, chances are someone else does, too. On some auction sites, the high traffic means prices get bid up. You might even be better off checking out a local store for a brand new item. It's amazing what some people will pay for a crummy used laptop. In any case, you need to do what you can to get the edge in the auction game. Why try to guess whether one auction's typical pricing is lower or higher than another? Here's where meta-auction services such as AuctionRover come in. Now you can see all the available items in a given category for a given price range. If you see what you want at Amazon, there's no reason to buy what you don't want from Yahoo!

Even if Yahoo! becomes the #1 auction service, there is no reason to be loyal when it comes to the delicate art of parting with your own money...or flogging your wares.


7. Chess

When it comes to playing interactive games over the Internet, you have many options. Some of the most popular reside at major portals: Yahoo, Playsite (Lycos, Go2Net), and cobranded POGO offerings (Excite, Netcenter). If you think I'm going to sit here and weigh the merits of different versions of Euchre or Backgammon, well, fuhgeddaboutit. Let's confine this discussion to the sport of kings. Whoops, wait a minute: depending on who you ask, the "sport of kings" could be steeplechase, golf, surfing (really dude??), horse racing, falconry [sic], or polo. As far as I know, you can't play polo over the Internet. We'll let you know when they come out with a Yahoo! Polo - perhaps some system where you ride around in a horse with a PDA which controls the ball via wireless communications.

For the less active, brainier crowd: the POGO version of chess, available through Excite and Netcenter, is more pleasant to use than the Yahoo and Playsite offerings. Better look, better feel, and feature-packed. There have been some improvements to the system lately to make it easier to play against someone at your own level, and a bit of the "teen social club" aspect of it has been absorbed by the creation of a "social chess" category. The nice thing is, if Excite is down, you can log in with the same alias over at Netcenter. If you haven't played before, you'll have to get used to some annoyances. Many players wish to play extremely short timed games. It's not always easy to find traditionalists on the system. Then again, you can arrange to play a personal friend over the 'net, and that way, you know what you're getting.

The gaming offerings at MSN might be worth a look, as well. Millions of chess players got introduced to it via the "Gary Kasparov vs. the World" competition. Kasparov prevailed, but also accused the World team of taking secret direction from an anonymous chess grandmaster.

Aside from chess, there are so many other cool games available through the major portals that they deserve separate treatment.


8. Sleuthing

One of the most amazing and disconcerting things about the Internet is the ability to track almost anyone down. The "people search" utility is a popular feature at major portals like AOL, Yahoo, and Netscape. But if you're into doing really cool stuff like quickly tracking down area codes, zip codes, or doing a reverse phone number lookup (try your own!), you will probably find that specialty sites such as will do the job faster and better. Got a favorite sleuthing site? Do let us know!


9. Tough Web Search Problems

The shortcomings of Yahoo! as a directory and search service are often exaggerated. At the same time, let's not kid ourselves:Yahoo!'s search capability leaves a lot to be desired. Now power searchers may have a two-tiered approach to the search game, first figuring out what type of search they would like to perform, and then choosing the appropriate search tool. But human nature being what it is, many of us want that one quick search box - and we're looking for the one that will provide us with great results often. For many of us, that's Google. If I had a nickel for every time I type into my browser...! For others, it's a metasearch engine, based on the premise that searching all the engines will provide a more comprehensive result, and therefore save time looking at different sets of results. The industry leader is Metacrawler , but some experts think that a newcomer called Ixquick offers better results more often.

For tough web search problems, you'll want to take a detour. But there may be some Yahoo! features that will surprise you.


10. Maps

Yahoo! does it right. Teaming with Mapquest, they offer world-class mapping tool which provides maps for just about any area you'd care to look at. As I zoom in on my own neighborhood, I'm impressed by the detail. The map even has a name for the park down my street - the one which I've always referred to as "Dog Land." For trip planning, you can even get detailed driving directions. Are the maps printable? Yes! So if you're going somewhere you've never been, why not print out the local city map in case you get lost?

Yahoo! is also expanding into metropolitan traffic reports (Yahoo! Traffic). This could become a very popular item as wireless applications expand into cars. One thing certainly leads to another, and another again, as the Yahoo! Traffic area is sponsored by Yahoo! Autos, where you can vote on your favorite roadster, and eventually maybe even do research towards buying or selling a car. The Audi TT is currently blowing away the field in the "favorite roadster" poll. Sure, but the gas mileage is terrible.


Stay tuned for the next instalment. Got a portal feature you'd like us to review? Drop us a line.


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