Eons Spins Off Obits, But Insists Company is Alive and Well as It Unveils Big Redesign

The folks over at Eons, the web site for the baby boomer crowd, must have aged a lot in the last few months. Back in September, the struggling Boston company laid off a third of its staff. Then, in a pretty full-out public relations disaster, the firm early this month dropped its over-50 age limit in a bid to facilitate its new focus on social networking, sparking outcry from hundreds of people (including quite a few who posted on Xconomy), many of whom feared the site would be overrun by teenagers or launched personal attacks against Eons founder Jeff Taylor.

Today, continuing its efforts to reinvent itself as a social networking business, Eons announced a major redesign—set to go live at 9 a.m. eastern time—focused on bringing people together individually and around special-interest groups. At the same time, the company revealed more details of its previously stated plans to spin off its classified Obits section as a separate business called Tributes, which it said has received funding from investors that include Dow Jones & Company.

The core of this morning’s announcements, though, is the rejuvenated website, which Eons has been working on for the last several months. The company launched its beta site in mid-January and has been testing it through focus groups and adding updates since then. “What’s really reflected here is Eons’ full commitment to social networking, and so the navigation, the look and feel of the UI [user interface], is all oriented to a really robust community experience,” says senior vice president Linda Natansohn. This kind of social networking, she told me, is “what users told us they want.”

To that end, Eons has removed the circles that previously ran atop its pages to identify the broad subject areas it covered—“fun,” “love,” and so on. Instead, there’s a traditional navigation bar with tabs labeled, “my eons,” “profile,” “explore,” “groups,” “people,” and “games” that is more geared toward social networking. Natansohn says many Eons users go to their profile pages every day, and so the company wanted to better configure the site and navigation around their more personal view of things. For instance, she notes, when users sign in, they can see which groups they’re in and which friends are online.

Eons’s much-ballyhooed custom collaborative-filtering-like (I shudder to think how much the company spent on this) search engine, cRANKy, is also being put out to pasture. Rather than being presented with a long list of items when they searched on a given term, boomers would see a few items other boomers felt were most relevant. New chief technology officer Eric Golin says cRANKy will still be used for general Web searches, but the Eons site itself will be served by an open source search engine that makes … Next Page »

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Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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