Will anyone care that Yahoo brought Messenger back from the dead?

You have to feel bad for the people braving it out in Yahoo’s offices. First, people say the most valuable thing about Yahoo is its stake in Alibaba. Then, many reports indicate that the company’s board is thinking about selling off its web businesses. And now? The all-but-forgotten Messenger service has received a long-delayed revamping.
The new Messenger looks good enough. Yahoo has included some interesting features, like the ability to lump contacts into groups or delete anything from a conversation, into an app that looks like pretty much every other messaging tool. But is that enough to convince anyone to use an app they’ve already abandoned?
There was a time when Yahoo Messenger’s primary competition was AOL Instant Messenger. (Which, as I learned this morning, apparently still exists.) That time has passed. Now, the messaging market is overrun with apps like Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, WeChat, and many similar services.
This has become something of a theme for Yahoo. Its email service was also quite popular — now, at least in my experience, its inboxes function mostly as a digital trashcan for notifications from long-abandoned Myspace accounts and spam. That service received an update similar to Messenger’s earlier this year.
There are some good ideas tucked into all these updates. Besides the features mentioned above, the new Messenger also deserves special mention because it uses Yahoo’s other properties to assist in photo-sharing (Flickr) or make it easy for people to search GIFs (Tumblr) without requiring much effort on their part.
The Verge reports that the new Messenger builds off “at least 10” of the acquisitions Yahoo has made since Marissa Mayer became its chief executive. Finding a way to make these seemingly haphazard buyouts do something useful might just be the most interesting thing about this updated Messenger service.
Still, the fact of the matter is that people are unlikely to use the new Messenger. Most already have a few messaging services on their phone, and unless people resuscitate their Yahoo accounts to be more than secondary email addresses, it would be surprising if more than a few diehards gave this app a second chance.
Yahoo was willing to pull Messenger from the brink — this update comes months after the company pulled the app from the App Store to “to better focus on our core and future offerings,” as it said in a support article. Given that many people probably sought replacements in that time, and that using Yahoo Messenger in 2015 feels a lot like searching the web with AskJeeves, this app seems like a decent idea that’s arriving a few years too late to make much difference to Yahoo.

A new season of Community starts March 17 on Yahoo

Cult TV comedy Community is returning this March — on 3/17, to be precise — but not on NBC. Instead, Yahoo is going to release the show exclusively on its Yahoo Screen website, staring with two new episodes on March 17th. Following the Saturday release, fans are going to get one new episode every Tuesday. Here’s the cast of the show officially announcing the premiere date:

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NBC had canceled Community in April due to declining ratings after five seasons. At the time, there were speculations that Hulu might jump in to save the show, and producer Dan Harmon confirmed during a Television Critics Association event in Los Angeles Tuesday that Yahoo was indeed in the running (hat tip to Variety’s Debra Birnbaum).

Community is just the latest cancelled TV show to be revived online; Netflix brought Arrested Development as well as The Killing back from the dead. However, it’s a big get for Yahoo that could potentially introduce lots of new eyeballs to Yahoo Screen.

Correction: A previous version of this post erroneously stated that the show would start in January. The post was updated at 10:55am with the actual launch date.

Flickr kills sale of Creative Commons prints, issues refunds

Flickr has abruptly ended a service that allowed people to buy canvas or wood prints based on pictures that appeared in its Creative Commons gallery, the photo sharing site announced on Thursday.

The decision comes just weeks after [company]Yahoo[/company], which owns Flickr, first launched its so-called Wall Art service as a way for customers to purchase physical copies of its millions of images that can be used for free online.

The service immediately ran into controversy after some photographers complained that Yahoo was earning up to $49 for each print, but was not sharing any of the money with those who had posted the photos in the first place.

Even though the Flickr Wall Art service only offered images for which the owner had granted a Creative Commons license for commercial use, some complained that they believed the terms of the license only extended to online use — and not to physical prints as well. Some withdrew their works from Flickr altogether.

Other photographers, however, had no objection to what Yahoo was doing since, under the terms of the relevant Flickr license, they had marked the images as available for commercial use. (Under the the flexible Creative Commons licensing system, an artist can grant certain rights to the public but withhold others).

Flickr explained the situation this way in a blog post: “[while] some expressed their excitement about the new photography marketplace and the value it would bring, many felt that including Creative Commons-licensed work in this service wasn’t within the spirit of the Commons and our sharing community.”

The company also said it is sorry that “we let some of you down,” and that it would issue refunds to those who have placed orders for a Creative Commons print.

The good news is that Yahoo doesn’t appear to be giving up on the project altogether, but says it will “come back with programs that align better with our community values” — presumably, this might include a licensing system in which Flickr users can explicitly agree to let physical copies be sold.

In the meantime, the company added, people can continue to use Flickr Marketplace, which lets users buy prints of their own images, or from certain licensed artists.

Box CIO decamps for Yahoo

Ben Haines, who was named Box’s first CIO 18 months ago, is now the VP in charge of applications at Yahoo.

Netflix sues former VP, claims fraud and kickbacks in IT deals

A senior executive at Netflix awarded lucrative contracts to two IT service providers in return for 12-15 percent cash kickbacks, and may have also accepted stock and gift cards from other companies in a corruption scheme that ran for years.

Yahoo acquires BrightRoll for $640 million

Yahoo is acquiring video advertising company BrightRoll for $640 million in cash. Marissa Mayer announced the acquisition with a post on the official Yahoo blog Tuesday, where she said that BrightRoll will help Yahoo in its quest to replace traditional banner ads with “video… mobile, social, and native” advertising. Mayer said that BrightRoll is expected to generate more than $100 million in net revenue this year, and comScore lists Brightroll as the ad platform with the widest reach, serving ads to 52.4 percent of all U.S. internet users in September. (Disclosure: BrightRoll is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media.)