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New Yahoo CTO Raymie Stata on Relevance, Apps vs. Web and Social

Before Raymie Stata was named Yahoo (s YHOO) CTO today, he stopped by our office for a broad discussion (we didn’t know at the time about his impending promotion). When he first joined the company in 2004, Stata started off by focusing on search and later incorporated work on advertising before being named chief architect early last year. Stata won the CTO role for his efforts to move Yahoo from “a set of vertical silos to a horizontal platform infrastructure,” as the company described it in a blog post today.

When we talked to Stata a few weeks ago the word he seemed to use most often was “relevancy.” He said he thinks of Yahoo as a “shared global processing platform” with many signals coming in, and relevant content coming out. Those signals include conversion data from advertisers, retargeting, learnings from partnerships with Facebook and Twitter, search logs (aka the “database of intentions), testing (he calls it “purposeful permutation”), and to some extent, Yahoo Mail and Messenger, though without going too deep into people’s personal communications.

Stata told us how recent modifications to the prominent “today module” on the front of to make it more personalized to different segments of the Yahoo population resulted in a doubling of the clickthrough rate. He also talked about how a shift towards audience-based buying will place a increased value on data. “Advertisers pay more if they know it’s their audience in that inventory,” he said. A recent massive Wal-Mart buy on Yahoo reached 23 million moms an average of 5.6 times, which Stata pointed out is 7 in 10 online moms in the U.S.

Stata also talked a bit about creating relevant experiences for any form factor. “We’re in the midst of reworking the guts so when apps come around we don’t have stovepiped applications for web browsers,” he said. That means taking advantage of what every platform offers, Stata said, pulling out his iPhone to show off a gesture-controlled air control game. “HTML 5 can’t do that,” he said. Stata said of native apps:

“The web is getting kind of boring — the browser is not a great content delivery tool. You can’t touch it, it’s rectangular, there’s no surround sound. An app is a compelling medium to present content to users.”

The same goes for advertising, Stata said. “Ads on web pages are banners, and banners are tacky. Ads are more compelling as apps.”

But after the industry pushes through a process of vertical innovation to build apps on specific platforms, Stata said he expects the open web to re-emerge.

Asked about Facebook’s efforts to make the web social through its “like” buttons, Stata said he thought it was all very similar to the way Google Maps became integrated into many sites a few years ago, or to the way YouTube grew through its embedded video players. “Bringing your content to other publishers is a theme that will emerge on the web,” he said.

P.S. Facebook also named a new CTO, Bret Taylor, this week — look for an interview with him soon.

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