A new Yahoo?

Last night, I got to crash a snazzy dinner thrown by Yahoo to talk about social media with London geekmedia. I came away wondering whether we will start to see a new Yahoo.

Two of their executives engaged in what I argued was continuing portalspeak. “Yahoo’s where the activities are,” said one, who talked about “properties.” Another bragged about owning consumers because they do their email there and talked about Yahoo’s continuing “aspiration to be the starting point for consumers and advertisers.” That is the definition of a portal.

But then John Linwood, a vp of engineering, talked about opening up Yahoo as a platform. The other day, Yahoo boss Jerry Yang talked about this, too, but I was concerned that he was still looking at this as a media and portal model, trying still to get people to come to Yahoo rather than following Google’s open and distributed model. But Linwood said that, indeed, they plan to provide tools and content that developers can use to build new businesses away from Yahoo. Then he also talked about putting controls on that.

BBC tech correspondent Rory Celland-Jones asked pointedly whether Yahoo knows it has missed out and it is just slapping the social label on its rhetoric to try to catch up. One of the Yahoo execs tried to insist that the internet is still “at a very early stage” (read: Google has not won yet, he wishes).

I think what we witnessed last night was the debate the company is having within: portal or platform? Even if platform has won at the top, we need to hear stronger confirmation of that and see strong action and the question remains whether it’s possible to change Yahoo’s culture to make the shift. It’s already big and old. But it’s not too late to change and I think I finally saw the seeds of that change.

  • Jeff, OT, but derwesten.de is up! I already peeked into it, but so far I’m not exactly overwhelmed. Yup, it’s nice, people get to local news online, but imho the true power of geotagging hasn’t been unlashed yet. As an unregistered user, I haven’t yet managed how to find news on the map. I swucceeded in geotagging two news reports (a hand-bag theft and a hit-and-run driving), ok, but no other news in those vicinities showed up. Unsatisfying. Or is the feature reserved for registered users only? That would be a serious error of judgment, unnecessarily reducing the benefit of the site for all those casual visitors who don’t want to open up a profile there (knowing my fellow Germans, certainly the majority).

    Well, what do you think? Already had the chance to check the site?

  • Interesting insights. I 100% agree with you on the negative aspects of portals. However, there are a few strengths that portals clench on to.

    Ad Hoc Networks:


  • Yahoo is falling far behind, particularly in the wake of Google’s new Social Networking API. It is interesting to contemplate whether Yahoo should embrace it. I think they should. In the short-term, it is giving aid and comfort to the enemy. But in the longer term, the potential that comes from linking disparate social networks may make it worthwhile. Yahoo might just strike a tolerable deal behind closed doors with Google to share some of those spoils if they move before their position erodes further.

    Here are thoughts on how businesses could use a true meta-Social Network built on these API’s:


  • I can’t be the only one who’s noticed the nearly 1-1 correlation between businesses that crow about how they ‘own consumers’ and those that are shortly thereafter – if not already – in serious trouble.

    These guys either don’t understand the implications of their rhetoric, or they still don’t have the company united in a coherent strategic direction. (Or both.)

  • We have, of course, heard of del.icio.us, of Flickr, of Upcoming, etc. They don’t have to open up as a platform because there buying all the infrastructure that constitutes Web2/New Media’s ‘platform’.

  • Yahoo should stop fishing in red waters. Facebook, Opensocial, Ning, etc have this hook line and sinker. Yahoo should be trying to leap their competition at this stage vs. Trying to play catchup.


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  • Robert Hooker

    Yahoo failed in the search space for the reason it is failing in the social space and why, despite a huge presence, given time the market logic will free the Internet of a dino like Yahoo: they want to control everything.

    Flickr is an excellent case of the Yahoo problem. One of the few bright lights of the Yahoo night Flickr has provided really no new user interfaces and services in 2 years, not even a spell checker yet!!!! Its performance remains poor and as it becomes more popular often features lag so long they become unusuable. But in this time where the paying users got nothing they were forced to create Yahoo acocunts and now are forced to apply moral metadata tagging to all their photos. Yahoo has gone as far as to define all German speaking users as having the rights of children!!!!

    Yahoo wants to rule the world but fails to learn the Microsoft strategy: if you want to make trillions and dominate a market in software let people make their own stuff with your stuff, be there all the time but invisible.

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  • lol :)