Having not worked at Yahoo in a bit over a year, it's interesting, amusing, and frustrating to watch what's going on over there. Some of their moves confirm feelings I've had for some time, while others are more puzzling.
The Search deal with Microsoft was basically inevitable. You could see even two years ago how out-gunned Yahoo was compared to Google and to what Microsoft was rumored to be thinking of doing. Based on what I knew, Yahoo was spending less than 20% of the money on search that Google was and they were trying to do the same worth with about 1/10th the hardware and less mature infrastructure software. Meanwhile, the web kept growing and became more and more real-time.
It seems that Yahoo wants to sell Zimbra. I remember when that acquisition happened. I thought it was cool technology and would be great if we actually wanted to compete in the on-line "office suite" market (or whatever), but that never happened. Instead it remained as one of those "enterprise" products that Yahoo has a history of trying and failing at. Remember Yahoo's enterprise instant messaging product? FAIL.
Now comes news that Yahoo wants to sell Small Business which includes their web hosting and domain registration businesses. This makes good sense to me. While it's a business that I think has usually made money, it simply wasn't competitive in a day and age when you can get a full virtual machine, storage, and bandwidth from any number of vendors who aren't scared to offer good remote access (ssh anyone?) to the server: Slicehost, Rackspace, Server Beach, Amazon, and so many others. Yahoo's offering may have made sense back in the year 2000 or so when it really competed on price, but this is one of those race-to-the-bottom commodity business and has been for years.
People picking on Carol for selling some stock recently? Well that's just dumb. Yahoo is a public company and she really didn't sell that much.
I hope that Carol is able to trim the parts of Yahoo that no longer make sense and help bring some focus to the company. I really do. But to be honest, I've seen it before. Terry Semel tried to do something similar when he came on board. But that was a wandering effort that ultimate lacked focus and wasn't ambitious or forward-thinking enough.
Jerry and Sue tried this when Terry left, but I really think they were too "Yahoo" to transform Yahoo into what it needs to be.
I see how Carol is trying to be smart on the business side, but I'm not sure how Yahoo plans to wow its users. And coming from the Yahoo! Developer Network, I wonder if Yahoo will ever get serious about outside developers. Conferences and Hack Days are great, but I suspect they still haven't figured out how to offer buisness-class APIs (with an exchange of money and an SLA). Aside from YUI and Hadoop, can you really go beyond a prototype with this stuff?
It could simply be that I never really drank the YOS/YAP kool-aid and never will get it.
Oh, and what about those smaller startups? Should I start to worry that del.icio.us or Flickr is going to go away? What about Upcoming? When their founders start to worry, I feel like I should too. At least Flickr has a business model and appears to still be kicking some ass. MyBlogLog has all but died on the vine, right? Is there anyone left of the original team of 5 or 6 engineers still working on it? No, I think it fell victim to Yahoo's larger social strategy. FAIL.
I hope that Carol can be clear, focused, and agressive in re-shaping Yahoo. The half-measures attempted over the last few years simply haven't been enough and never will be.
Posted by jzawodn at September 22, 2009 07:06 AM