Yahoo Canada has redesigned its homepage and it's telling that the company's country manager doesn't mention search first when listing features and how people typically use the site.
"We have a wide range of demographics," says Claude Galipeau during an interview, in answering a question about the users who choose Yahoo over the search leader Google.
"It's generally people who want to be informed, who want to have fast breaking news, who want to check their stocks, who want to check the weather, who want to watch video, who want to catch up on celebrity news, and who want to search the web, and who want to use mail."
Many Web users probably can't remember the last time they strayed from Google to try another search engine.
According to the measurement firm comScore, Google commanded an 89-per-cent share of Web searches in Canada in November, compared to 6.6 per cent for Microsoft's Bing and just 2 per cent for Yahoo.
And yet Yahoo is the fifth busiest website in Canada (behind only Google.ca, Google.com, Facebook and YouTube), according to measurement company Alexa.
A large part of its appeal is the breadth of content hosted on the site – in addition to the search box.
"We say we're in the top five as a general website and we're No. 1 in a number of categories – often in sports, we're No. 1 in finance, we're No. 1 in celebrity news," Galipeau says, adding that the new redesign is focused on feeding users the content they want across all the devices they use.
While the look of the new homepage isn't dramatically different, the behind-the-scenes code was crafted so the site can learn what kinds of links users frequently click on and highlight that content on future visits.
Users who sign in or connect their social media accounts should get the best experience, although others who don't will still get some personalization through the use of tracking web cookies, adds Galipeau.
"Our objective is really to increase engagement by being extra relevant," he says.
"The content stream is progressively personalized based on your activities, what you choose to read, and any signals you give Yahoo."
Yahoo is now seeing about half of its traffic coming from smartphones and tablets, which Galipeau says prompted a "mobile-first" design philosophy.
"We're trying to make sure we exploit the full characteristics of a tablet as well as a smartphone – and make sure the experience also works on desktop," he says.
"Mobile is really the future and that's why we're designing the entire Yahoo experience to be mobile first, but to work across all devices."
Galipeau says Canada is considered one of Yahoo's "top-tier" markets based on users' enthusiasm for the online world.
"We're considered to be a top-tier country for a number of reasons," Galipeau says.
"One, our usage on the Internet is extremely strong; we're one of the highest, if not the highest, consumers of online video; we're phenomenal users of search; and we've been Web surfers for well over a decade, so we're a well-practiced, mature, sophisticated Internet user base."