It's interesting that Tom wrote this today--the day I got to meet him in person:

Yahoo kicked the engineers aside quite some time ago. Co-founders Jerry Yang (does he still carry the title of “chief yahoo” on his business card?) and David Filo probably still do engineering type stuff, but the business is handled by people who know how to run a large media company.
Yet at Google, there are NO media professionals! They’ve done well so far, no one would disagree, but can computer engineers grow a media business? This could be Google’s Achilles’ heel.

I had lunch with Tom and about 10 others people today in Palo Alto. Sadly, I had to leave and get back to work by 2pm, but I'd have loved to stay much longer. We talked a lot about weblogs: journalist weblogs, personal weblogs, company weblogs, personal brands, and so on. Very interesting stuff that I should try to summarize some other time.


Not too many people know this, but about two years ago I tried to leave Yahoo. I had been working in Yahoo Search (for the first time) and wasn't terribly thrilled with it and a lot of things. Obviously, I didn't leave. But I had an interesting series of meetings the day after I told a particular VP that I'd be leaving in 2 weeks.

The end result of all that was my new (at the time) role, dealing with MySQL related stuff full-time for all of Yahoo. And the rest is mostly history, some of which I've documented here on my weblog--including my move back to Yahoo Search.

However, it was during that day of meetings that I first discovered the internal confusion over what kind of company Yahoo is. I remember telling someone that I really wanted to go work for a technology company, not a media company. That led into an interesting discussion of the evidence for Yahoo being a media company vs. Yahoo being a technology company.

Identity Crisis?

Over the next couple of days, I asked a bunch of folks the question: "Is Yahoo a media company or a technology company." But it's been a long time since I've thought back on all those discussions.

Today, over a year and a half later, I see things differently.

In simple terms, you don't get to be the biggest Internet Media Company without also being one hell of a Technology Company.

So in my mind, Yahoo is both. No, the engineers are not front and center, but that doesn't mean they aren't dreaming up and building some really cool stuff. I only wish I could talk about some of the projects we've got in the works. But then I would be looking for a new job! :-(

So all I can say for the moment is "stay tuned" and keep an eye on the Yahoo Search blog, where we're going to be introducing more and more of those folks.

Maybe Tom Should Visit

Getting back to what Tom wrote (quoted above), I get the feeling he doesn't have much of a relationship with Yahoo.

A while back, Jerry Yang wrote the following in his first Yahoo Search blog posting:

While I'm not nearly as technical as I was 10 years ago (I got my hint when David Filo changed the [root] password on me so I can't touch code anymore), I firmly believe that the technology we are building today makes the future of the Web even more useful, informative, and entertaining.

Yes Tom, he's still one of our two "Chief Yahoo"s but he works on the business side of things now, not on engineering. Tom seems to think of Jerry as some sort of figurehead, but in my experience that couldn't be farther from the truth. Though he did make fun of me for wearing shorts to work in December, so he's not all work and no play. David Filo is still very much a part of day to day engineering and operations.

Tom, if you think the engineers have been kicked aside, you need to come visit Yahoo. I'd be glad to introduce you to some of the smartest engineers in this industry.

Posted by jzawodn at December 10, 2004 09:48 PM

Reader Comments
# Brian said:

I worked for Y! from '97 to '99, in sales, and we called it a "media company" then, too. But I never got the sense anyone thought it was a question of "all media" or "all engineers." So yeah, it should be both, and then some. It takes all kinds, as they say.

on December 10, 2004 10:28 PM
# Ashwin Navin said:

Totally agree with Jeremy, I don't think Yahoo's senior management has ever been stronger, but even more importantly, Yahoo's middle management has never been stronger either. While senior management probably realized Yahoo's strengths and weaknesses 2 years ago relative to strong industry pure plays (Google, Ebay, etc), disseminating vision to the middle tier takes time. Managing battles on 50 fronts takes strong middle managers -- probably Yahoo's principal competitive advantage over Google, which to date is an unproven entity outside of its core business (ie, search).

on December 11, 2004 04:34 AM
# The Only Constant is Change said:

The categorization/quantification of any company, by definition, is expected to change, lest it go the way of the dinosaurs.

Look at UPS; they are a "shipping" company that now owns a large retail chain (Mailboxes, etc.), and does more to coordinate international logistics than many people realize. If they hadn't broadened their offerings, they'd be relegated to a commodity shipper - able to compete only on price.

With any luck, Yahoo will morph/mature/grow several more times in the course of your tenure. After all, you've got options (pun intended).



on December 11, 2004 09:55 PM
# Tom Foremski said:

Jeremy, I'll take you up on that offer!

BTW, it was great to meet you, the lunch conversation was fascinating.

on December 13, 2004 02:13 AM
# Purtu Porti Webdesign said:

Totally agree with Jeremy, I don't think Yahoo's senior management has ever been stronger, but even more importantly, Yahoo's middle management has never been stronger either.

on April 19, 2005 09:00 AM
# halı yıkama said:

very nice blogs.

on January 24, 2008 04:49 PM
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