In the wake of recent layoffs , and the rumored “sunsetting” of a number of services such as AltaVista, Yahoo Buzz and Delicious (see our updated post on the latter news here), it’s tempting to see Yahoo as a slow-motion train wreck, shedding assets in a haphazard way as it trundles inevitably towards disaster. Mike Arrington, for example, argues the company is “in complete disarray” as it tries to figure out what its future is, and other observers appear to have the knives out for CEO Carol Bartz. But a case could be made that the company and Bartz are doing exactly what they need to do: triage to stanch the bleeding, shutting down or selling off assets, and so on. It may not be pretty, but it is arguably necessary.
There’s no question that the way the company handled the Delicious news — at first releasing a vague statement about some of the assets on the “sunset” slide, without mentioning the social-bookmarking tool at all, only to have the service post a statement Friday complaining about all the inaccurate reporting about its demise — isn’t likely to fill anyone with confidence about the company’s grasp of the real-time nature of public relations and communications. But plenty of other companies are guilty of the same lack of awareness, so we can’t really pin that one on Yahoo alone.
When it comes right down to it, shutting down or selling off assets such as AltaVista, Yahoo Buzz, MyBlogLog and Delicious (which the company hinted it’s looking to sell or hand off to someone else) makes eminent sense for the web company. Former Yahoo executive Brad Garlinghouse — now at AOL — accused his employer of being like peanut butter spread too thin in a famous internal memo in 2006, and that has arguably been the case ever since. At least Bartz and her team are taking some steps to get rid of things they don’t need and cut back on the drain they are putting on resources.
Don’t get me wrong: Yahoo is still in bad shape in a lot of ways. Among its only valuable assets are its stake in Yahoo Japan, and the future of that is uncertain at best. The company’s content strategy, which has seen it buy “crowdsourced” content farm Associated Content and hire a number of bloggers for its political and other news operations, remains largely unproven — and is so similar to the restructuring that AOL has been doing that there have been reports about a merger between the two (which would likely help neither). But for the moment at least, cutting back on the number of pies the company has its fingers in seems like a pretty wise approach for Yahoo to take.
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