Yahoo! has been in the news a lot lately. They were the first search engine and website that I used regularly in the mid 1990s and they seemed to have a fairly strong presence until the early 2000s. I was a happy Yahoo! mail user at a time when getting 250 megs of webmail for free was almost unheard of. And although their site was cluttered, I visited it daily and even used their IM service. In 2004, Google launched the beta for Gmail, offering a gig of space to users… four times what I had… all while offering a nice, simple, and clean interface. That’s when my journey with Yahoo! ended.
In the 9 years that have passed, Yahoo! has kept afloat but I honestly have no idea what they even do anymore. As a programmer, I’ve always been tuned into their web development tools and resources like YSlow, YUI compressor, and their Best practices for speeding up your web site guide. They’ve compiled a ton of valuable information and made it available for free, similar to how Google has put together amazing resources for optimizing your site’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization). While this is great, at the end of the day they’re a public company and are supposed to be returning value to the investors. I know that Yahoo! threw in the towel a few years ago on search and now powers that using Bing (which is a great search engine by the way). They also own Flickr (a photo sharing website) and they seem to be pretty involved in content. I enjoy writing and was pleasantly surprised when I found out about their contributor program. But as an outsider, I don’t really see a huge cash cow.
Google might do Android, Gmail and search, but their bread and butter is advertising… making as much as 97% of their income from ads. Intel has proven itself year after year to be an extremely successful semiconductor company, beating down AMD and now working towards recapturing the mobile market. Microsoft has been such a successful software company that the Department of Justice and other regulators world wide have had to step in and shut them down. Apple (Computers) has raised themselves from the dead after Microsoft bailed them out and have turned themselves into the dollar bill printing machine of the hardware world, setting a record for highest market cap for a publicly traded company. People seriously throw away their perfectly good iPhone and re-buy the new one because they love the brand that much.
Where does Yahoo! fit into this picture technology-wise? Unlike the companies above, there hasn’t seemed to be a clear area of focus. It’s almost felt to me like they’ve been trying to do an acceptable job at a ton of things instead of doing a killer job at a select few. With the recent news about Yahoo! partnering with Twitter and (just today) acquiring Tumblr, it’s starting to look like they’re really focusing in on content (and the advertising that goes along with that). Users out there are generating massive amounts of content and sharing it online. Google and other advertising companies have been struggling to find a way to be successful at advertising on mobile devices. Yahoo! is definitely an underdog, but I think they have a real shot at coming back here. I think Marissa Mayer has made a great impact in her short time there and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out