I've had several folks ask me what I think of Google Finance. There's already a fair amount of good commentary out there on the topic (Bambi, TBAiT, Charlene, Matt, Publishing 2.0, Blodget, and others), so I'm going to answer this in a different way.
Warning: This is long and not terribly flattering stuff that's been under mild pressure for a few years now.
You see, I started at Yahoo! back in 1999 as an engineer working on Yahoo! Finance. It was one of the sites I used most often back then, so it was a privilege to get my hands on it and really contribute in a meaningful way. I spent roughly the next three years working with the good folks in our group, including Katie Stanton, who announced Google Finance a few days ago.
Katie was one of the best people we had in Yahoo! Finance. I was disappointed when she left Yahoo a few years back. I remember chatting with her a few times when she decided to go back to work. Trying to choose between Yahoo and Google, she asked for opinions.
How time flies...
Last year I teased her a few times about Google Finance. Of course, she denied that any such thing was in the works. Since I knew it was in the works, I wasn't surprised when it finally came out. Nor was I surprised to see her affiliated with the product.
It clearly has a Yahoo! Finance feel in several areas but with a distinctly Google flavor to it. I have minor complaints about it, but I think it's a good start aside from the fixed width home page.
So why does this make Jeremy sad?
It makes me sad because I end up thinking about how Yahoo! Finance has stagnated for a long time. It never really recovered from the pain of the dotcom crash. So many of my old Finance coworkers have either left the company or moved on to other groups (several moved into Search last year). Heck, I encouraged many of them to get out!
There was a lack of leadership and, even more importantly, a serious LACK OF VISION. It really disappointed me.
It makes me sad because virtually all of the new/innovative/cool features in Google Finance are things we talked about YEARS ago. Many of them I'd lobbied for repeatedly. Some were even prototyped.
- A ticker search that doesn't suck.
- Charts with overlays for news events.
- Blog integration.
- Featuring discussions more prominently.
- RSS support.
Who's gonna get "credit" for all that now?
I'm not gonna name names (virtually none of them are around anymore anyway), but there was a real lack of leadership in Finance for long time and it really sucked the life out of the group. Users noticed. Finance employees noticed. Other Yahoos noticed. We all knew it. And, frankly, I was glad to be out when I moved on (and the next time and the time after that).
Over the years since leaving, I've made pleas to numerous people in the Finance organization: engineers, product managers, engineering managers, editorial, and so on--veteran employees and newbies alike.
Push into community more. Get more into personal finance, not just the high-end Wall Street stuff. Adopt blogging and syndication. Get around to those chart improvements we'd talked about. Fix up the message boards. (Remind me to tell the story of how they freaked out when I snuck RSS feeds out back in 2002. It took another TWO YEARS before someone re-did that work and finally shipped it. But the RSS train had already left the station by that time.)
Last year I started talking about Google Finance and they got a little excited. They talked more about all the stuff they could maybe do. Asked for some input (again). My hope was renewed for a while.
During all that time, I purposely didn't write anything here about my frustration and disappointment. I've been accused of using my writing in public as a instrument to instigate internal change at Yahoo. I've been accused of complaining in public before talking to folks internally. So I tried to be a good Yahoo and give my suggestions to anyone who'd listen.
On the other hand, people tell me they like reading my stuff because it's not sanitized corporate PR speak and I'm not always painting a rosy picture of what goes on. Instead, I tell it like it is--from my point of view, of course.
Well, here we are.
As a company, we need to get better about facing this stuff, dealing with it, and get back to kicking ass. But I have no idea how to make that happen. Maybe this will result in some useful discussion somewhere.
There's a light at the end of the tunnel. All hope is not lost. Unlike a small number of Google product launches, this one didn't blow the doors off. It's no Gmail or Google Maps. Yahoo! Finance isn't out of the game. But I sure as hell hope this is a wake-up call!
On the flip side, Katie's a kick-ass product manager and knows the Finance world very well. I can only imagine what else they're cooking up. The clock is ticking.
- Josh Woodward's take (he and I worked together for a few years on Y! Finance)
(Remember: I'm not speaking for my employer... yada, yada, yada. See the disclaimer at the bottom of the page.)
Posted by jzawodn at March 22, 2006 09:20 PM