In the course of the last decade Yahoo! has lost out on every major initiative whether be Yahoo profiles and chat (To Facebook) or Search (to Bing) or Flickr (To Instagram). Once the most important Internet company, Yahoo! has been reduced to a state of profitable (shrinking fast) irrelevance. There was no major stake on how Yahoo! could influence Internet browsing behavior or leverage search or take a stake in the mobile bandwagon. Therefore Yahoo! Axis a refreshing new initiative from an almost dinosaur internet company. Axis essentially is a browser for iOS devices and a browser plugin for desktop computers. It has a premise and the intent is in the right direction.
Interestingly now, Axis will help Yahoo! skip trying to compete with the dominant desktop browsers and instead offer a plug-in that works on all of them. That enables Axis users to extend their browsing habits to the Axis apps for iPad and iPhone, which is much less settled territory. Mobile and tablet browsing is the next frontier, and Yahoo is wise to focus the next stage of its business there.
- It essentially seeks to integrate the browsing and search experience. Users will not be required to launch a new page. Both the experiences are well knit on a single page with the usual bells and whistles. Why waste time on the search engine when the search process is built into the browser. Axis does away with the blue links that have defined internet query results for a decade and replaced them with previews of pages that might provide the information being sought.
- Understandably the experience is touch led – which is a key to the mobility, smartphone and tablet platform. Finally then, Yahoo! has some ground on hand held devices with the Axis app.
- Also key is the seamlessness of the experience which can be shared across all iOS devices. It would be interesting to see how Yahoo! recreates the iOS type experience across a range of disparate platforms each not exactly talking to the other. Possibly the plug-in would do the trick… but experience is the key here.
- On the flip however, Axis is somewhat of a double edged sword because it by-passes the search results page. Yahoo still makes a quarter of its revenues from the sponsored links on this page.
However, Yahoo! is betting its future on the convenience and speed of this search concept. The seamlessness of the experience is the consumer hook. What keeps them there is the way Axis syncs browsing history between the desktop and mobile versions, so users can switch back and forth easily between devices. Once there is enough data on the users, Yahoo can sell you all its services by promoting them heavily in the app and its search results.
Of late Yahoo! has lurched from one crisis to another. It still makes money but the future is very uncertain given the mobile dominance building on the internet, advent of Facebook and Google. Axis is thus a step in the right direction. Yahoo! still wants to take one more fight..
The future of computing devices is really about how people interface with computing devices.
Generation #1:Many would remember the ubiquitous keyboard and the QWERTY keys which defined the early days of mobile computing. Remember having to key an SMS while navigating your car. It was not just difficult, it was fatal.
Generation #2: Haptic or touch based interface for computing was around for many years, but it was Apple’s iPhone and iPad range of devices along with Androids which truely revolutionized this scene and in effect put the Generation #1 devices into history books.
Generation #3: Gesture control and gesture recognition is really a evolution of the Generation #2 Haptic feedback devices on a much larger scale in tersm of being able to read body movements in a 3D plane. Interestingly this input mechanism came through from the world of gaming. Microsoft Kinect and to a some extent Microsoft Surface defined this generation of interfaces.
Generation #4: The easiest human interface is that of Speech. And after defining the interfaces with multi-touch, it was Apple which took this one step much further into future than Andbody else. Yes! Google had the speech recognition technology much ahead of Apple. However it was Apple’s fate to add the dash of character and spunk to Voice recognition – called Siri which holds a huge promise into future.
This presentation analyzes the factors why Siri could ultimately do something none could ever do before it- Challenge the Search paradigm. Again the simplicity of the voice interface and Siri’s character and spunk is what differentiates Siri. But in some time, Siri could be the de-facto standard, with app developers and Apple’s presence across a huge range of consumer based devices chnaging the way people search – by saying it out. Apple could take the whole paradigm further with intelligence on the voice enabled platform. It would be an interesting duel between Apple and Google and Siri could change the future.
Google’s search engine is a triumph of technology. There’s no denying that. It was the capstone that completed the initial structure of the Internet.
With over a decade and more of dominance beyond any thought and competition the biggest challenge for Google lately has been the declining potency of its search engine. In recent years, Google searches have become a lot less useful and a lot more frustrating. It has become more difficult to find stuff that is on the internet — even stuff that was featured previously. Another example is pages that have posted to the web more recently. They get overpowered in the Google algorithm by older pages that have had time to accumulate more incoming links.
But, the Internet is now in the midst of a dramatic remodel and it’s unclear whether Google search will get the refresh it needs to make it more appealing than ever or if it will be one of the things that gets painted over.
1.) The search results on Google are becoming increasingly ineffective because they were littered with “web spam” and articles from “content farms” (sites creating faux content to turn as many ads as possible).
2.) Social media has been replacing traditional web search for many different kinds of information gathering and Google hasn’t have a legitimate play in social (till Google+. After several high-profiled social flameouts — such as Google Wave and Google Buzz — Google+ seems to have made the mark)
Ironically, the biggest problem for Google is its greatest cash cow, SEO — Search Engine Optimization. A whole cottage industry has arisen around helping sites optimize their pages to get ranked as highly as possible in Google. As a result, the sites that land at the top of Google search results have become more about which sites are best optimized rather than which ones have the best and most relevant content.
Even worse, whole companies have emerged whose entire purpose is to create low-quality content that is highly-optimized for Google and loaded up with ads to turn a quick buck. These “content farms” have become big business.
Recognizing the growing risks points 1. and 2.pose to Google’s relationship with users, and ultimately its business model, the company has moved aggressively in 2011 to fix the situation. Google called it Panda. Panda was released in February 2011 with newer versions in April 2011, May 2011, June 2011 and September 2011.
However, the Panda update has had a difficult time targeting content farms and has accidentally affected a lot of good stuff. So for every eHow and Demand Media (bogus content sites) that Panda obliterated, Panda also killed some like TechRepublic (genuine content host).
Google argues that this creates a fairer and more objective system, and that introducing human filtering into the system would make it biased and subjective. While that may be true, the big question is whether human intervention would make Google search more effective, and ultimately more accurate. The problem with the algorithm (and artificial intelligence in general) is that it has no common sense or wisdom — at least not yet. Meanwhile, the systems that Google search is increasingly competing with for information discovery — social search and mobile apps — use the collective wisdom of the community or targeted experts to deliver better information more quickly than Google search, in many cases.
So far, Google (even with Panda) has had a difficult time targeting content farms and it has ended up accidentally removing a bunch of useful content in the process. The big question now is whether Google can learn from this experience and change, or if it will eventually fade into becoming a fallback mechanism that people use when they can’t find the information they need from social search (asking their Twitter or Facebook friends) or a mobile app.
There are two separate and contrasting reports on the fate of Yahoo! post the exit of Carol Bartz. Yahoo!’s which could be regarded as the largest Web 1.0 dinosaur has possibly seen all its glory days and is simply unable to find its niche in the fast changing, quickly evolving Web 2.0-3.0 space. That is a pity considering that Yahoo! Was one of the first social companies (Yahoo! Chat anyone?). But then it lost the plot in SEO (Search Optimization) and then again in SNS (Social Networking). By the time Yahoo! Moved away from its display advertisement focused domain, the landscape had changed very nearly completely and the likes of Facebook and Google were well past it. Yahoo again had the first movers in Mobile space with some early link ups with Nokia- Yahoo on the go! but again lost the plot. Read up on the Fall of Yahoo! here
Coming back to the reports: the first one was about Yahoo! Preparing for a strategic sell-out and the fact that Yahoo! board should have sold out to Microsoft long back when Ballmer made a very generous offer. Yahoo’s long-time advisers Goldman Sachs and Allen & Co are preparing to give potential buyers financial information which is a sign that Yahoo is about to put itself on the auction block. Sale appears to be the best way forward ro get rid of the biggest millstone about the company’s neck – its board.
Yahoo has been consistently underperforming and made some howler decisions. Attempts including a very aggressive positioning effort (by Ms. Bartz) to turn the company around failed and the share price is much lower than it was when Ballmer made his bid.
In this context, the second report quotes Shashi Seth, who heads the Yahoo!’s global search and marketplaces business and the efforts around Yahoo!’s (yet again) turn around. This comes at the face of the fact that key executives at Yahoo! are leaving in hordes. Seth re-emphasizes on focus on making great products, experiences and learn how to monetize them. The key according to Mr. Seth is redefining how search has traditionally been understood and breaking the old paradigm of search to focus on new growth engines. Yahoo!’s new growth mantra focuses on
• Creating a search engine for Apps
• Focusing on Mobile search
• Ability to search through integrated user linked information across Flickr, Picassa, e-mail accounts, tweets, FB updates
With due respect to Mr. Seth, the plan sounds nice (as did every other Yahoo! turn around plan) but there are huge many gapping large holes in the scheme of things that Mr. Seth puts. Firstly, the mobility space is taken… Androids will push Google, WPs shall push Bing and Apple doesn’t care, because the whole app experience in terms of App look up and search is so well integrated in Apple that they won’t need Yahoo! to give them the solutions. That kind of rules out Points 1 and 2 listed above as the platforms will inevitably push their native search engines. The UX of Yahoo! search could also be a dampener. This applies to the two of the largest device platforms: Smartphones and Tablets.
Ability to search through integrated user linked information across user accounts is a great idea, but I suspect that the Google’s of the world are already doing it in some measure and are integrating things faster. What really enables Google and Bing is that they have a teams of developers working on their platforms using the native Google and Bing search apps. Yahoo seems to have realized the potential in mobile a little late for any real action coming through to them.
Yahoo seems to be serially missing out on another huge property that they have in terms of 12+ years of content. A content management system with optimization could bet Yahoo!’s answer … much like the Guardian example. However, I don’t think that it has the ability to turn Yahoo! around.
Is it there yet?(Afraid not)-Bing continues to be drain money for Microsoft even while results are not as desired
2 yrs back, Microsoft launched an aggressive attack on Google’s search with its Bing search engine. It also put in place, an agreement with Yahoo powering the Yahoo search at the backend. 2yrs on, Microsoft is still at it, loosing loads of monies to the tune of $700 million a quarter. The costs for Microsoft, meanwhile, keep mounting. In the latest fiscal year, ended in June, the online services division — mainly the search business — lost $2.56 billion. The unit’s revenue rose 15 percent, to $2.53 billion, but the losses still exceeded the revenue.
While there are some results in terms of 14% of search market share in US, it isn’t as encouraging as Microsoft would have wanted it to be. Add the searches that Microsoft handles for Yahoo, and Microsoft’s search technology fields 30 percent of the total. It was always going to be difficult- Google was more than a search, it was a generic- a search behavior! (Read Launch notes of Bing, Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV)
Microsoft’s assault on Google in Internet search and search advertising may be the steepest competitive challenge in business today. It is certainly among the most costly. Trying to go head-to-head with Google costs Microsoft upward of $5 billion a year, industry executives and analysts estimate.
As the overwhelming search leader, Google has advantages that tend to reinforce one another. It has the most people typing in searches — billions a day — and that generates more data for Google’s algorithms to mine to improve its search results. All those users attract advertisers. And there is the huge behavioral advantage: “Google” is synonymous with search, the habitual choice. Once it starts, this cycle of prosperity snowballs — more users, more data, and more ad dollars. Economists call the phenomenon “network effects”; business executives just call it momentum.
Bing’s gains have not come at the expense of Google. Its two-thirds share of the market in the United States — Google claims an even higher share in many foreign markets — has remained unchanged in the last two years. The share losers have been Yahoo and smaller search players.
Even while Microsoft is a big, rich company, investors are growing restless at the cost of its search campaign. The inability to make effective inroads into Google’s Search stronghold is seen to be a failure in Ballmer’s strategy. While the gas tank of investments at Microsoft is an seemingly an endless pit, the lack of results (as desired) on the Bing search engine and the drain on investments is beginning to show up in terms of Investors, Analysts questioning the path, intent and approach. Challenging Google in real terms on search is a long drawn battle and it all depends on how long is Bing ready to bleed as against how quickly does Bing get measurable real results for investors to approve the spends.
Revisiting the Bing Strategy (Contd)