Nicholas Goodchild

Historic and Pared Down


25 May 2012 by Nicholas in Technology

Yahoo recently divested itself of its CEO following a shareholder revolt. The problem, apparently, was that the CEO had lied on his CV about whether or not he was a Computer Science graduate. Although honesty, integrity and suitable experience and knowledge are arguably all important when choosing a leader, it seems to me to miss the point; what Yahoo needs now is vision and direction, regardless of the qualifications of the person guiding it.

Time was that Yahoo was where you went to search the internet and learn what was great and good on it. This was in the nineties, when D:Ream could have a number one, games with polygons were the exception rather than the rule and you watched and listened to tapes rather than files on flash storage. Yahoo also was responsible for content, with things like yahoo groups and mailing lists. The internet was a different place back then, and Yahoo was top of the tree. And then came Google.

I remember when I first used Google, I was advised to by a friend who was much better with computers than I was. It was 1999 and Fatboy Slim and Armand Van Helden were the best things ever. George Lucas had only slightly tainted his legacy and I didn’t even know George Bush had a son. It was the start of the slide for Yahoo: they clung to what they knew as their competitors innovated and invented a new internet. On the one hand Google came and made search their own, with more relevant results, faster loading times and none of the clutter that held Yahoo back. On the other hand Microsoft decided to seriously pursue the internet and did the content and groups thing better.

These days, when someone has a yahoo mail account it surprises me. Time was it was my main email provider. People who still use yahoo messenger are in the minority. Do yahoo groups even exist anymore?

it’s not just the loss of their core markets to the new pretenders, it is also the failure to diversify into new arenas: there is no yahoo social networking arena. There is precious little in the way of useful content, although yahoo answers remains a valuable resource (particularly to those of a SEO bent). The tales of companies that yahoo has let slip through its fingers reads like a who’s who of emergent behemoths: notably it includes both Facebook and Google. And search, for so long yahoo’s core product, they now farm out to other companies to do for them.

So the new head of yahoo, more than actually knowing what their own accomplishments and achievements are, must understand what yahoo is and what it can be: having lost its core market, what can it do to recapture some of it, not haemorrhage any more of what it has and to expand and diversify?

I wish them good luck. Because right now it looks like a dinosaur caught in its death throes.