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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.




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