Yahoo! Present Tense, Future Unsure!
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.