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Tripping the Yahoo Fantastic

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Its like being standing on the corner of downtown San Francisco. Limos dropping off potential partners, busy valets, and people just milling around with rollon suitcases. A man standing patiently, waiting with a 2Wire set-top box, hoping to get out of the crowds. Even the gift shop, just beyond the ugly purple bull is doing brisk business. The polite receptionist is doing her best to get everyone with a tired smile, normally associated with the end of a working day. Sun, is not even half-way through its daily journey. Welcome to the fast growing world of Yahoo! At the end of the third quarter they had 8000 employees, and the actual number might be up to 10,000. Who knows! The buildings are packed. Things are changing so fast, that new employees are being tagged, NEW HIRE.

Mojo is still at work, six months later.

Check out some of the internal posters they have, and you realize that the aircraft carrier has turned. It might not be as obvious, but the biggest change has been under the hood. Six months later, things have become complicated as well.

I think the company will, sooner or later, will have to answer a question it has not asked itself thus far: What is Yahoo?

  • Is it a search company?
  • Is it a VoIP company?
  • Is it a digital music company?
  • Is it a content company?
  • Is it a digital photo company?
  • Is it a mobile application company?
  • Is it a broadband portal?
  • Is it an email provider?
  • Is it my daily page?

The answer is that it is a bit of everything. And when you are a bit of everything, it is hard to say who you really are.

Yahoo sometimes reminds me of General Electric. Sometimes I think of it as a consumer giant, just like P&G. Instead of selling soaps, shampoos and creams, it sells email services, digital radio and other online experiences. A very senior executive told me that if you counted the number of people who use many different services of Yahoo, then Yahoo could be the fourth most populous country on the planet.

Even a hardcore cynic like me has to say …. wow!

It is easy to overlook nearly a decade of life folks, many not living in the hot house of Silicon Valley, have invested in MyYahoo. Google, Microsoft and all the upstart pretenders will have a tough time replacing that investment, Ajax or no Ajax. (Perhaps that’s why Yahoo should not look over its shoulder ever five seconds!) The very ordinariness is what is Yahoo’s strength. Wharton School of Business perhaps is right that Yahoo might just fly under the radar as Google and Microsoft duke it out.

No, that is not good enough. What Yahoo needs is an ability to form an emotional connection with its users. Instead of being just MyYahoo users, they should have a religious fervor with Yahoo’s services. Like Apple has with its community, despite its flaws and foibles. Or the way TiVo inspires the TiVoted! Why even Microsoft, Bell Companies and Google elicit a range of emotion.

The opening up of the company, as beautifully chronicled by Erick in The Flickrization of Yahoo, is a start. Attempting a unified look and experience could be next. Mojo turned to love for Austin Powers, and it must for Yahoo. At the end of the day, as I waited for my cab, the crowds still bustled around me. Around somewhere in my tired brain, a though rattled, just like me, Yahoo was waiting. I just can’t say for what or for whom….

Graphics via Business 2.0

10 Responses to “Tripping the Yahoo Fantastic”

  1. Xen Dolev

    Yahoo is already in the process of building an emotional connection bond with its users through their messenger Avatars. This service allows their IM users to personalize a character and add it to their personal profile.

    A few months ago Yahoo ran a pole among its IM users. This pole concluded that 40% of Yahoo IM users change their avatar on a daily bases! So if that isn’t an emotional connection with Yahoo – what is?

    Anyhow, it would be interesting to follow this ongoing process.

  2. Jim Dermitt

    Yahoo isn’t a country. I’m glad that issue is now settled. There’s nothing wrong with being just a company. I guess once your company becomes a multinational, people start getting fuzzy ideas about geography and place.

    Sometimes you need to put people in their place, when they forget their place.

  3. Jim Dermitt

    Help Wanted on Google Base
    Good analysis at by Jonathan Berr.
    “Google didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.” Google is so busy being the media, they don’t seem to have time for the media. First it was the pests at CNet and now all these other budinskys want answers. Google Don’Talk 2.0. Head in the clouds syndrome. Google Base has also been hit with technical glitches. It’s a glitchy bitchy world. Google seems to be getting bitchy.

    What Yahoo isn’t:
    1. Google
    Please add something to list.

  4. Jim Dermitt

    A branded version of wiki that is more accurate would draw in users. Competition should improve wiki results. An ad free wiki is great for folks who really hate ads. I accept ads in exchange for information. Instead of being defined by wiki technology, I think wiki will be defined by companies such as Yahoo that empower users who define services. It should be disruptive to other services to be effective. It could even be disruptive to the way people think about wiki.

  5. Jim Dermitt

    I think if I was running Yahoo or any Internet based business I would try using a wiki application to let users define what the company should be. Yahoo Wiki could provide Yahoo with all sorts of ideas for very little investment. Wiki would be great for Yahoo tech support as well.

    They could call it Yahoo Base, wiki power it and be in action in very little time. Users would take it where it needed to go. That is different than the Google model, where users wait and see what Google is going to come out with next and then play with it until the next big thing is announced.