Posts tagged ‘Yahoo’

Jerry Yang Hatred Reaches Hysterical Levels

It’s been a few days since Microsoft reportedly walked away for good from discussions with Yahoo, and the vitriol being hurled at Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang is really something to behold. There certainly are facts to back it up, but the uniformity of the conventional wisdom and the level of anger puzzles me. Some of the coverage has taken on a very personal tone.

You can easily picture the veins bulging as Michael Arrington at TechCrunch screams Yahoo can’t possibly make more mistakes:

http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/06/13/massive-destruction-of-shareholder-value-employee-morale-and-internet-health/

Joe Nocera in the NYTimes rips into Yang and accuses him of violating his fiduciary duties and “stiffing” shareholders: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/14/business/14nocera.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&oref=slogin

Kara Swisher at All Things D already has a list of possible successors prepared:

http://kara.allthingsd.com/20080617/boomtowns-short-list-of-yahoo-ceos-sorry-jerry-but-fortune-favors-the-prepared/

Each executive departure is shown as proof of internal chaos — even when people like Jeremy Zawodny go out of their way to deny any connection:
http://jeremy.zawodny.com/blog/archives/010336.html

So what’s wrong with the conventional wisdom? Seems to me it’s focused too much on stock watching, assumes a merger with Microsoft would be successful and would curb the dominance of Google, and can’t conceive of the status quo changing. Let’s take those quickly in order:

  • Didn’t techies used to complain about business types obsessing over quarter to quarter numbers, and failing to see the need for the long-term view? And do the shareholders of Yahoo need Michael Arrington to go into a frenzy on their behalf? Investment comes with risk. If you don’t like how a company you’ve invested in is performing, you sell the stock.
  • A majority of mergers fail. Everyone knows this, many forget in the excitement of mergers and acquisitions. Poor planning, executive distraction, culture clashes and an internal focus on integration that hurts day-to-day performance are just some of the common causes. And is there any proof that Microsoft and Yahoo today exerting any moderating influence on Google’s rates? If not, then why assume a combined MicroHoo would?
  • To think the status quo can’t be changed is showing a lack of faith in technology and innovation. Who saw Google coming when Goto.com first started offering bids for search ad placement in 1998? Will no company ever challenge Google? And this view is very North America centric — in other global search markets Google has nothing like the share it has here. Internet growth is fastest in areas like China, where the search engine Baidu.com reigns supreme.

So I’m not totally alone on this ledge, a couple of interesting posts. Tim O’Reilly talks about an Internent Operating System of which search is just a piece, and encourages Yahoo (and Microsoft) to find new ways to excel:

Meanwhile, Yahoo! has let itself be defined by the same kind of penis envy. Here is a business that has beaten Google in area after area, that is unquestionably the #1 media company on the net, and yet has let itself be defined by the one area in which it is #2 — and where it could be much more profitable and successful by partnering with #1 than by competing with them.

http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2008/05/microhoo-corporate-penis-envy.html

And here’s a good read from Bernard Lunn of ReadWriteWeb, where he outlines 11 areas of possible opportunity around search:

My first post for ReadWriteWeb (nearly a year ago) started with the premise that search was “game over”, that Google had won and the only opportunity left was (re)search – i.e. what one does after the basic search. Unfortunately, none of the search start-ups since then has made a dent in Google’s relentless march towards search market dominance. In this article, we outline 11 search trends that may change that.

The proposition that launched countless search start-ups was: “If we can get just 1% of the search market, we will have a very valuable business”. That may be true, but getting 1% has proved elusive. It has been an all or nothing game. That may be about to change.

It is possible that Google will not be beaten by one big competitor. It is possible that they will be pecked at by thousands of tiny start-ups using a new outsourced infrastructure.

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/11_search_trends.php

None of this means Yang is necessarily the right guy for the job — he could be gone very soon under the avalanche of negative coverage. Unlike Kara Swisher, I’ve never spoken to him and can’t give an opinion on his abilities based on first hand knowledge. And unlike Michael Arrington I’m not on the speed dial of every disgruntled Yahoo exec with a juicy leak. (maybe someday this blog will get there…)

The reporting around the poison pill that was rushed through to make any MS acquisition harder sure sounds bad. A shareholder suit has been filed, and time will tell on that front. But it would be nice if some of the reporting allowed for the possibility — just the possibility — that Jerry Yang understands the company he founded and can lead Yahoo to success on its own.

UPDATE — Awesome, Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land agrees! Of course he writes a more thorough and detailed post:

Yahoo The Failure — Myth vs. Reality: http://searchengineland.com/080620-094239.php

June 18, 2008 at 3:26 pm 1 comment

Back to the Future — The Browser War

Fierce competition is back on the web browser front. After Microsoft crushed the Netscape challenge in the mid to late 90’s, Microsoft Explorer cruised for years as the overwhelming leader in the web browser market. It still is, with approximately 75% market share. But out of the Netscape defeat rose the Mozilla Foundation, a non-profit that launched the open source Firefox browser and has been refining it since. Here’s a good overview from Brad Stone of the NY Times:

http://tinyurl.com/6rux9g

Yesterday Microsoft struck back announcing a deal with Hewlett-Packard. Starting in January 2009 Microsoft’s Live Search will be the default search engine on all HP computers, taking that spot away from Yahoo. The deal is for North America only — Microsoft probably decided it has enough anti-trust issues right now with the European Union. Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineLand has a typically good piece, highlighting the US market share numbers of the various PC manufacturer/search engine alliances. I also like the idea he floats — why not cut consumers in with lower PC prices when the manufacturer gets big $$ from the search companies?

It fails to mention that HP will gain cash through the deal for effectively selling out their users. That’s not to single out Microsoft. The Google-Dell deal is exactly the same situation. Yes, in both cases, the computer owners are getting access to good search resources. But maybe the vendors should charge less for computer where they benefit by choosing for the consumer? Or maybe they need to disclose more fully why the defaults are the way they are?

http://searchengineland.com/080602-090000.php

But the struggle isn’t over when the default is set. Users can of course change their search option. Or they can be cajoled/coerced into doing so. Here’s a piece from Danny last year on that mostly behind-the-scenes battle:

http://searchengineland.com/070115-111111.php

There is one element of the HP/MS deal Danny doesn’t focus on, maybe because its not related to search. In addition to Live Search being the default on HP computers, Microsoft’s Silverlight animation software will be built in as well. This is the MS product that competes with Flash, and having millions of computers on the market that can view Silverlight without needing any plug-ins should be a big market advantage. Ars Technica thinks that will end up being more significant than the default search element:

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080602-new-hp-microsoft-live-search-deal-is-all-about-silverlight.html

Personally I prefer Firefox. It seems faster than Explorer, and useful add-ons like the Alexa traffic reader are easy to implement. I don’t mind that Firefox has decided for me that Google should be my default choice for search — at least not yet. We users need to remember we can always make up our own minds.

June 3, 2008 at 12:07 pm Leave a comment

Balancing Professional and Amateur Online

Earlier this month Newsweek ran an interesting story about the resurgence of an old debate — if/how content should be edited on the Internet. The viewpoint that venerates the wisdom of crowds and the individual blogger/YouTube poster has seemed dominant lately, but is there now a movement back to “professional” content vetted by experts?

I say old debate because the conversation has been around since the Mosaic browser lit a bomb under the growth of the WWW. Many forget that Yahoo started with human-edited categories being the most used and trusted parts of their search results. See here for a typically strong and thorough explanation circa 2004 from Danny Sullivan on Yahoo’s gradual evolution away from categories in the face of a tital wave of web content growth:    http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showthread.php?t=597

Driving this evaluation now is advertising. Advertisers want their messages to be placed next to high quality content that draws a premium audience — not an angry screed from a blogger long on opinion and short on facts. Or a popular but tasteless YouTube video. Professional editors/experts can presumably produce quality content that can then be monetized more effectively.

My take is there’s plenty of room for both kinds of content — the Web is a very big place, and getting bigger all the time. Here’s the article written by Tony Dokoupil: http://www.newsweek.com/id/119091/output/print

March 25, 2008 at 11:05 am 1 comment


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