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Yahoo time and again releases open source software which is super super helpful to the community at large. But it always makes me wonder why an org with such an amazing engg culture (multiple anecdotes from friends who were at Yahoo, plus the amazing experiences at Yahoo OpenHack each year as a testament to this) could be run into the ground.

Really goes to show that engg != business and unless you have a firm business model and growth, an amazing engg team can only get you so far.

I know I'm just stating the obvious, but just putting it out there!

Vespa looks super interesting (more so since I'm in a company that provides ecommerce search APIs as a product) and I'm sure I'll play with it more. Thanks Yahoo! :)




The Register did a good job describing the dichotomy between the product business and the tech side of the business here, related to a previous open source project Yahoo published (disclaimer, I run the open source process at Yahoo) https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/03/23/yahoo_tensorflow_on...

"Over the decades Yahoo! has contributed substantially to the greater good, publishing its own code as open source.

Arguably Yahoo!’s greatest legacy once it is a division of Verizon will be big data, after one of its engineers – Doug Cutting – wrote an open-source implementation of Google’s MapReduce that became Hadoop. What followed was an entire ecosystem of startups and projects crunching data at scale – Cloudera, Hortonworks, MapR to name three in a market some calculate will be worth $50bn by 2020."


Congrats on the Vespa release, it looks phenomenal!

Generally when you disclose something (like the fact that you run the open source process at Yahoo) that's a disclosure, rather a disclaimer.

A disclaimer might be considered the opposite "I don't run the open source process at Yahoo, but...", or, more commonly, "IANAL".


oops, thanks. I meant to disclose my affiliation, not disclaim it.


> Cloudera, Hortonworks, MapR to name three in a market some calculate will be worth $50bn by 2020

Very optimistic calculation...


There are a lot of players in this space.


What do you mean you run the Open Source process at yahoo?

Hopefully Verizon's open source legacy will become even bigger and make it easier for these kinds of innovations to happen.

We've had some success a few cities over in Verizon Labs... https://verizon.github.io/


My job is to manage the open source process for Oath (which is essentially Yahoo + AOL). That includes helping ensure we can publish code like this and the hundreds of other projects we publish too. I'm the one who cares about open source licenses, patent clauses, github permissions, etc. Many large tech companies have someone in a comparable role and some of us work together in the todogroup to help manage the way we do opensource. I'm beginning to meet the people in Verizon who do the same. I hope their open source legacy grows too. Heck I celebrate when Google, Amazon, and Comcast publish great code too. It's good for us all. But Vespa is a real treat. It's really really special to Yahoo and we are very hopeful that the Big Data community sees how many things they can do with this, at scale, the way we have.


Here's some info if you're interested in starting your own open source program c/o the TODO Group: https://github.com/todogroup/guides


Here's some more information if you're interested in running your own open source program: https://www.linuxfoundation.org/resources/open-source-guides...


When I was there (2003-2005), the big problem already seemed to be that a lot of engineering saw Yahoo as a tech company, while a lot of the business side saw Yahoo as a media company.

Especially so after Yahoo conceded Search.

So one side wants to pour money into getting technical leverage. The other side largely just wanted more effective ways of publishing and monetizing content.

It doesn't really matter which side was right, only that they were at times pulling in wildly different directions in terms of what they believed it was important to invest in.


Yahoo's largest problem while I was there (2004-2011) was that nobody could articulate what y! is and what it does. Actually, at employee orientation in 2004, they had a clear mission: to be a part of everything you do online: either by doing it, or cobranding it, with a goal of being in the top 3 of every internet vertical.

Somehow, over time, this message was lost, and it was no longer ok to be #2 or #3 in some verticals (like search), and having very healthy profit margins wasn't enough either. The Microsoft search deal was a bad deal, poorly executed, as well: Microsoft couldn't meet the monetization and performance requirements from the start (Microsoft paid out of pocket for a while for this), y! lost control of an important product, and the staffing reductions to search that were supposed to be enabled never came.


Interesting "to be a part of everything you do online: either by doing it, or cobranding it, with a goal of being in the top 3 of every internet vertical." Could you say that part of the reason they lost was a mission/purpose that from the above seems to be purely focused on internal value creation? No word on how they would benefit their customers? It does not say anything about the value it creates.

Put another way should your purpose be something customer focused?


The customer focused version of this missionis 'to help users do everything they want to do online'. Part of doing everything is providing some form of discoverability, which takes the form of linking to other products -- big traffic drivers are links on the front page to major products, and integration with search, but also relevant cross linking within the more specific verticals -- at Y! Travel, we would use flickr photos, events from upcoming, share restaurant data with local, we would have done things with yahoo calendar if it was more usable, etc.


That sounds like an incredibly unclear mission to me. It also sounds like the mission of a media company, not a tech company, but without making that distinction clear...


What's unclear about it?

And/or what do you propose that fits what Yahoo! did (or should have been doing) at any point in its life? Alternatively, provide a clear mission statement than encompasses what any large company with lots of products does -- GE, IBM, Google, etc.


Well for starters it is clearly hyperbole. There is no way Yahoo particularly wanted to be part of everyones porn surfing for example - Tumblr notwithstanding. And you'd find plenty of other niches where Yahoo made no attempt whatsoever to enter.

And outside of investment in Alibaba, their involvement in online shopping was marginal. In fact, Yahoo's premium services was always marginal across the board - I spent years trying to push product teams to find services they could potentially charge for in Europe, and from what I can tell my replacements had no luck in that respect either.

Instead Yahoo actually divested a number of services in that respect. Yahoo! Personals was sold to Match.com, and while it may have been co-branded for a while, that's long since lapsed in most markets.

So either Yahoo dramatically failed to follow this up in any reasonable way, or the actual intent was a lot narrower. Or both.

But what does "be a part of" even mean? Have an ad on the page? Be recognised by the user as providing the service? Providing content? Provide the tech? It really says nothing. It doesn't say anything about the purpose either. Is it to sell more ads? To grow the brand? To drive people to premium services?

It's a non-statement.

To me it's a statement that's basically carte blanche for whatever management happens to want right now, but it's certainly not providing focus.

And while I would interpret it as directed towards media, I suspect it did nothing to e.g. clarify to the company whether Yahoo was a media company or a tech company. Maybe intentionally, because there were a lot of people in engineering when I was there who did not want to accept that what mattered to Yahoo was connecting eyeballs to content, and that.


> Well for starters it is clearly hyperbole. There is no way Yahoo particularly wanted to be part of everyones porn surfing for example - Tumblr notwithstanding. And you'd find plenty of other niches where Yahoo made no attempt whatsoever to enter.

It's a little hyperbolic. A realistic refinement would add family friendly and having a decent amount of marketing spend and/or user time spent.

> And outside of investment in Alibaba, their involvement in online shopping was marginal.

Yahoo! Shopping was a decent price comparison tool (and Kelkoo was an acquisition of the same in Europe), and Yahoo! Stores was enabling a lot of small businesses to sell online. Auctions was closed in 2007 (except in Japan), because it's hard to be the number 2 for auctions. Yahoo! Wallet was supposed to make it easier to buy things all over the web by storing your payment credentials in one (trusted) place. There was a person to person payment thing that I can't recall the name of.

> Yahoo! Personals was sold to Match.com

In 2010 -- way into the period where nobody knew what Yahoo! was trying to do.

> To me it's a statement that's basically carte blanche for whatever management happens to want right now, but it's certainly not providing focus.

Yahoo may have been focused on the directory initially, but at least by 1997 it was not a goal to be focused -- there was never one thing Yahoo did to focus around, other than the brand. Even the first archive.org capture from October 1996 has links to random things.

> And while I would interpret it as directed towards media, I suspect it did nothing to e.g. clarify to the company whether Yahoo was a media company or a tech company.

Does it matter if it is a media company or a tech company? The real answer is Yahoo is an eyeballs company. Premium services I guess were technology revenue, but services revenue was never expected to be a large portion of revenue for the company (although certainly it was for some verticals). Yahoo's tech stack enabled small teams to build vertical sites that competed with much larger teams. Yahoo's business stack enabled those small teams to sign large advertisers and content deals. Yahoo's network of sites enabled the small teams to start with lots of eyeballs, without huge marketing spends. Building compelling verticals gets the eyeballs to come back. Having a great internet search product that the eyeballs saw as a great internet search product would have really helped with keeping eyeballs.


Yes.

Steve Jobs responding to a question about OpenDoc in 1997:

> You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.

https://mikecanex.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/wwdc-1997-video-s...


Because often there's no correlation between engineering culture and business.


I haven't had the longest career, but the little I have see empirically confirmed to me that there's actually a strong connection between engineering culture and business success. Of course, a great engineering culture alone is not enough, but it can act as multiplicative factor.


In an engineering centric product. Why would a mom and pop email / news / casual gaming portal succeed directly because of good engineering? Time and time again we massively over-play our role in many business stories.


This is so true. For a website so heavily focussed on content, tech is only a small part of the game. Case point is youtube, though the tech challange with youtube is more complex. Nevertheless, youtube now has to survive on business deals and cannot depend on tech alone, unlike google search.


Yahoo mail was garbage. News was not useful and mostly ads. Search was not great.

If you build crappy tools don't be surprised when people don't find a lot of value in them.


I would think they aren't all that correlated. Look at apple, Steve job treated some of his engineers like crap and they were successful. Its nice to have a good place to work, but I don't think it ensures success.


This doesn't necessarily mean a 'bad culture' -

a) the concept of 'tough love' is applicable

b) were engineers allowed and challenged to innovate? or did their work effort primarily consist of navigating red tape and beurocracy to the point that all creativity was crushed?

etc.

see also: dilbert.


To me a good engineering culture isn't a "nice" engineering culture, it is one where the company consistently delivers outstanding work that is on point with business requirements.


See: DEC, Sun Microsystems. Engineering != Ability to make money. While none of us may like it, you almost always need a solid marketing and sales force to have a successful business.


Sun was making money, their problem was cash flow. Their primary customers were on Wall Street. They borrowed a bunch of money prior to the GFC, and right when they needed their Wall Street customers to be placing orders to cover payments on the debt, their customers were tightening their belts.


Business is (mostly) about people and relationships. That's probably where Yahoo was lacking - not the engineering part.


And they used to be a BSD shop as well, then Marrisa changed it to Linux I think.


Juicero had an amazing engineering culture. Look where that went. You need a proper management team to wrangle it in. Clearly Yahoo has made mistakes in that aspect.


Not sure that Juicero is a good example good engineering, "Do You Need a $400 Juicer?"

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5lutHF5HhVA


I think you and the parent comment are both partially right - from having watched a number of teardowns, the Juicero was (if anything) massively over-engineered in terms of number of parts, cost of those parts, how they were machined, etc.

It was also kind of clear that it went too far, that a more experienced hardware design and engineering team would have found (not a cheaper), but a more effective way to handle those same challenges.


>from having watched a number of teardowns, the Juicero was (if anything) massively over-engineered in terms of number of parts, cost of those parts, how they were machined, etc.

What you mean to say is that the Juicero was overbuilt and underengineered. As the saying goes, "anyone can build a bridge, it takes an engineer to barely build it".


This reminds me all too much of Coffee Equipment Company which back around 2005 built the world's greatest coffee machine, Clover. Unfortunately, at $11k per machine even Starbucks, after buying the company, wasn't able to find a profitable niche for it. Clover machines were, are, beautiful machines that are able to repeatedly and dependably turn out genuinely great cup after great caffeinated cup; the problem is that it was a solution in search of a problem, much like Jucero.


What does "engg" stand for? A particular field of engineering?


ok if I ask what company, I have some interest in the area.


IMHO, yahoo has bad investors. One of the proof is the firing of Marissa Meyer. As soon as she was hired, the reputation of yahoo has started to improve. All the fights of investors against her until they make her leave had the opposite effect. It takes years to build a reputation and it takes more years for this reputation to bring dividends. I have a similar feeling for Microsoft. The reputation has (slowly) improved since the arrival of Satya Nadella. I which he succeeds to make it back a big player.


Meyer basically destroyed a healthy, but not growing, company in the span of 4 years through short-term number-massaging actions at the cost of their competent engineers and core product development.

Nadella isn't making a particularly strong case for MS either with his seeming distaste for any product of theirs that isn't either mobile or cloud-based (like the ones where they actually have a monopoly to build off and no competition worth speaking of), which seems to arise from that 'chasing growth numbers' mindset.


Microsoft products? "Windows is a service" is the word now, as firmly stated by a recent message demanding a PC reboot.

(The first sentence was "Windows is a service and updates are a normal part of keeping it running smoothly.")


to their "credit", this doesn't actually mean anything given the msft ability to misuse language consistently to make it sound more magical like


>Meyer basically destroyed a healthy, but not growing, company in the span of 4 years

So she did exactly what Google paid her to do. Eliminate a competitor.

How dumb do you have to be to hire a CEO from high in the ranks of your biggest rival?


Yeah she was terrible. Their homepage still sucks, freezes up my browser all the time.


I am not in America, but when she arrived, I was very curious to see how she could revived such a dying zombie. Clients and engineers were leaving as hell. IMHO, she has done a lot to reduce the hemorrhage and make it attractive again.


> IMHO, she has done a lot to reduce the hemorrhage and make it attractive again.

What are you talking about? She's no longer employed and Yahoo has been sold off to Verizon...


I replied to the rewrite of history of yahoo, in particular that yahoo was healthy before Marissa Meyer arrived. IMHO, she had a positive effect on yahoo during her presence.


Boardroom drama and IR conference calls turning into a 4chan style discussions are characteristic of Big Co. culture as such in US. The few successful big companies that evaded that predicament, were the ones with either poison pill provisions, or other tricks that made them "taste bad" for activist investors and other nasty guys from financial industry

Loss of direction is what stalls big tech companies 9 times out of 10. If you have 10 decision making actors on the board of directors, you have to effectively do 10 different things that each of that guys want, and all of them with compromises made to accommodate the 9 remaining other things that had to be done simultaneously.

My father frequently says that "a public company is a like a woman with 10 husbands, all trying to make love to her at the same time"




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