Thursday, January 26, 2006
Let's be constructive for a sec - there's been waaay too much Yahoo bashing recently.
What would you do if you were Yahoo?
My ideas are pretty well known, and I humbly submit they have been a fairly big influence on Yahoo (viz Semel's four pillars = my new media value chain) - but, IMHO, execution has been fragmented, intent has been muddy, and so little value has been created.
So perhaps you have something cool to say - if so, leave a comment and let's kick off a discussion.
To get in the "Yahoo mind," it seems they're taking the VC approach of "we don't know what's a hit and what's a bust, let's just spread the money and hope we get lucky" tactic.
Another way to look at them (in a positive light) is to consider that as they buy del.icio.us and other social sites, they're buying not just audience and tech, but the core data that those audiences produce. Will this allow them to crunch numbers and gain insight into the dynamics of social software, what works and what fails, what the linchpin elements are? They're probably in the best position to do so, but the issue is they don't seem to have made any such insight yet. But maybe there's more under the hood than we realize.
If you want to see a real "edge" in Yahoo, you have look, ironically, to search. As Google has become target #1 for site spam, their defense has been twofold: 1) start tossing sites at the threat of any vague "funny business." 2) only add new sites on a long delay, and continue favor old sites. This is a huge strategic flaw! I'm hoping it's a stopgap for Google, but notice that Yahoo is not taking the same approach. Maybe they don't need to because the spam doesn't affect their engines the same way or possibly there are social elements already aiding their search. If not yet, you have to assume that the future of search will take the path of email spam filtering, some sort of massive bayesian filter that allows almost immediate filtering through some social algorithm. Google is at the polar opposite of this approach, and while they spread their wings elsewhere, search may be starting to slide away, imperceptibly at first but gaining steam.
To be a bit more charitable than Ray, I think they understand that the have no idea what to do.
So, they're buying companies in hopes that the people there, given the full resources of Yahoo, will come up with something better. As a the founder of a startup that's gotten decently big, it's still obvious how much more I could do starting with their audience...
Its interesting to contract Google with Yahoo in terms of product development and innovation philosophies.
I�m sure this has been said before, but I�ll reiterate anyway: While Yahoo seems to want to let a chaotic market of businesses and ideas bubble the best to the top, and them buy; Google hires PhD to carefully make new stuff. Which is better?
This dovetails into so many similar situations, it�s hard to know where to start�so please forgive my scatterbrainedness.
Its similar to the debate between evolutionary strategic planning (a la Henry Mintzberg) versus more traditional rationalist strategic planning (predict and control)
Its similar to the debate in product design between the just do it, do it fast, and do lots of it approach (sort of 37signals� perspective), versus the prudent, intentioned user study approach (as in healthcare and military product development; perhaps Adobe is another example).
I�m torn. While I believe the seeming chaos of open markets can product amazing things incredibly efficiently, as a product designer me experience tells me that usually better results come (often faster and less painfully) from careful and prudent study combined with a mature and well articulated design process.
My heart and mind tend to favor Google�s approach. But I can�t deny that Yahoo�s approach (if well managed) is incredibly compelling.
As with any question worth asking, I have no idea what the answer is.