Yahoo, to me, is a great company! I’ve been using Yahoo since 1996 and always thought it was miles ahead of its time. Yahoo pioneered social media type technologies: user profiles, friends, Instant Messaging, rich HTML e-mail and a massive news portfolio: Sport, Financial, Weather and global news before everyone else. Their network in the US is unparalleled – even today and they’ve probably been, in part, the inspiration for sites that have since come and gone: Bebo, MySpace and a host of others. Older, would be competitors have been relegated to office toilet cleaning up duties like Alexa with its fake internet ranking fudge. Unlike companies like Apple, Oracle, Microsoft, Amazon and Google: Yahoo has survived despite it’s impassioned, directionless leadership and its ever shrinking workforce. For the first time in a long time, I feel that the perceived DNA of a company is stronger than the humans inside it.
So just who is Employee #20?
Marissa Mayer is responsible for a lot of things in Google. She’s a smart person and has tonnes of ability, creativity and vision. Oddly, one of the most important, is the white background on the Google search screen. It sounds unflattering but it isn’t. By keeping this enormous, highly valuable digital real estate clean – Marissa has ensure that Google search is as fast as ever with little hindrance. Had Google followed suit with Yahoo’s portal style interface (similar to Microsoft’s .net/live/msn/whatever-they-call-it, not the Bing thing) – they’d have had to become a full media company with a news wing. This would have worked in direct conflict with Google’s platform -v- portal move, which has instead catapulted them to one of the most trusted news brands in the world. There are regional news websites all of the world who now have global reach thanks to Google’s news platform.
In other news – MSNBC has hit the divorce courts with NBC getting custody of the apparition they created.
Where to next?
Marissa is close to Google DNA – she understands user empowerment. Yahoo have so much going for them – not least of all a user base that has stuck with them. Talk about about digital brand loyalty – even though Yahoo (a parent generation to Google in the search market) axed its own search engine to Microsoft (and similarly rejected its amorous overtones) – yet Yahoo search was (until this month) still bigger than Bing in the USA!
Google’s loss is Yahoo’s golden opportunity
This represents a golden opportunity for Yahoo. Marissa isn’t going to be heading over with a “lets satisfy the rational minds of the shareholder – she’s grown up in Google corporate culture (Yay, look a slide in the canteen!) – so Yahoo can really starting getting creative and innovative. Here’s hoping she axes Bing – even if she switched to Google search, it would be a massive step forward and a win-win but she’s also got a good chance at rebuilding their own search. Google did, for a long while, trust the $299 pa Yahoo directory – which was Yahoo’s first attempt at monetising the web (and an epic failure). Yahoo needs to drop the “We were first” attitude and start learning – its got resources, credibility and its never too late to learn. Apple and Microsoft are older and have survived a lot better and a lot worse.
Fresh from the echo chamber
The small but loud vacuous echo chamber of some Irish social media nit-heads has already led with “Yahoo! Who the **** are Yahoo?.” Irish ignorance is always cringeworthy as we’re a well educated, largely unbiased, well travelled group and this is nothing short of trying to be over smart. Yahoo have always treated their Irish audience with “UK+Ireland” and it seems we’ve never forgiven them. In Ireland, if we all agree with consensus then it becomes fact.
Take a recent “discussion” on twitter. Discussion is the wrong word as it was a one way diatribe. A young startup social media agency who follow 650 odd people and have just a handful of followers were quick to tell me how Google+ was a failure and that it didn’t work because nobody in Ireland used it. The same argument is been bandied around for both Google and Yahoo by both big and small agencies alike – because they simply don’t use it. That should scare us – the commentators that are so quickly lauded for their social media marketing expertise actually have none. But they are good at consensus. I’ll give them that.