Dear Yahoo, I Hate You

The slow death of Yahoo breaks my heart. This company once had the right idea but somewhere lost its way. Today, Yahoo is run more like an insurance company or a bank than an Internet company. The decisions it makes are cautious at best and cannibalistic at worst.

According to my tabulation, this is the current list of Yahoo closed properties:

  • GeoCities
  • Farechase
  • Yahoo Briefcase
  • Yahoo Pets
  • My Web
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • AltaVista
  • Yahoo Picks
  • Yahoo Bookmarks
  • MyBlogLog
  • Delicious, which was sold last week

They don’t meet the “core” focus of Yahoo. I really don’t understand what that core is.

As an aside, this Wikipedia listing is out of date.

And then of course there is this, from the December 2010 article, “Yahoo Cuts 600 Jobs“:

“Today marks the third year in a row Yahoo has laid off employees in the hundreds. In December 2008, the Internet company cut roughly 1,600 employees under then CEO and co-founder Jerry Yang. Then in the second quarter of 2009, shortly after Carol Bartz replaced Yang as CEO in January, Yahoo slashed another 700 workers, roughly 5 percent of its payroll at the time.”

And now in the Q1 2011 quarterly earnings report, we get this charming sentence:

“Revenue excluding traffic acquisition costs (“revenue ex-TAC”) was $1,064 million for the first quarter of 2011, a 6 percent decrease from the first quarter of 2010, primarily due to the revenue share related to the Search Agreement with Microsoft.”

Microsoft is the reason for Yahoo’s failure this quarter.

But probably most of all, I have the image of Jerry Yang burned into my brain as I watched him squirm at the 2007 congressional hearing where it came out that “Yahoo ultimately turned over e-mail messages that discussed the government’s policy on reporting about the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Tao was convicted in 2005 of disclosing state secrets and is serving a 10-year sentence.”

Shi Tao was working for the Contemporary Business News in the Hunan province of China. In 2005 he was sentenced to imprisonment for 10 years for releasing a document of the Communist Party to an overseas Chinese democracy site after Yahoo China provided his personal details to the Chinese government.

The most unsettling aspect of those hearings was that Jerry Yang sat at that table looking like nothing more than a puppet of Yahoo General Counsel Michael Callahan.

That was the moment that I got it. Yahoo culture is closed down, vision-less, and cowardly. And you can see it as the company slowly dismantles itself.

I should say, this has nothing to do with the people that work at the company. I know a few and they are smart, capable, and bright. Vision and culture comes straight from the top. And that’s what’s going to cause the death of Yahoo.

On the other hand, let me tell you a quick story about Microsoft.

I recently taught a class on key phrase research. I wanted to spend some time discussing the Microsoft Advertising Intelligence keyword research tool. I wrote about it here in 2010.

Unfortunately, something happened to my installation and I couldn’t get it to install within Microsoft Excel. So, I went to the Ad Intelligence discussion forum looking for help.

I got nine different discussion forum posts from people at Microsoft continually helping me resolve my issue. At one point they wrote a post just following up because they hadn’t heard from me in a while. You can tell that the culture of Microsoft still has it. The people there are excited and helpful. I believe it is because of this vision that now Microsoft listings are completely powering Yahoo. Because of that transition we can also say goodbye to what was Overture and, before that, Goto.

I honestly don’t see any kind of happy ending with Yahoo.

If I had to guess, I suspect Yahoo wants to be in display advertising because it is (or I should say was) the top online ad selling company. That top honor now goes to Facebook.

I fully suspect that decline will continue as well.

There are countless ways Yahoo could come back. But none of them will happen with the culture of decay that exists in its company.

All I ask is: Please don’t close Flickr. Just sell it to someone who cares.

Bottom line: What does Yahoo want to become?

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