Yahoo!'s Big Shakeup

Rob Hof

Here's the story. (And here's Terry Semel himself on a Yahoo blog, a little more real than the jargon-filled press release.) I don't know if all these moves will do the trick, but they do seem to indicate a certain urgency. That's critical. Yahoo, as a number of people have pointed out, has so much going for it that if Google weren't around, people (investors, that is) would probably have no complaint. But Google most certainly is around, and Yahoo has to not only address Google's fast-growing reach but also forge its own unique path.

As a longtime and fairly intensive user of MyYahoo, Yahoo Mail, Music, and other Yahoo services, the thing that strikes me about Yahoo is that they've got many services I want, even that I can't really live without, but they rarely take them all the way to locking me in for good. MyYahoo can read RSS feeds, but not too many--it breaks on more than 100 or so, failing to load them. So now, I've moved them to Google Reader. Yahoo's new mail has some nifty features, but the beta is still brittle, sometimes hanging. So far, I'm hanging in there myself, but won't forever. Yahoo Music not only doesn't run on a Mac, it doesn't even run on Firefox on a PC. Once I get the Mac I keep promising myself, I'm outta there too.

Many little details, but ones that add up to a lot of frustration--which could be eliminated with a little more attention by the folks creating and maintaining these services. I don't know if this kind of thing indicates people at Yahoo aren't committed, or they're hamstrung by bureaucracy, or they're spread too thin. But I hope whoever comes in to run the new Audience group pays heed, because a big audience is Yahoo's saving grace right now. Whatever it does to try to counter Google's search advertising edge, Yahoo can't afford to lose that audience.

Update: Is it just a coincidence, or is it significant that the little animated guy who break-danced onscreen while you wait for the new Yahoo Mail to load, has now changed into a boxer? Um, maybe not, since he's just shadow-boxing....

Liam Shadowboxer Scaled