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What Went Wrong At Yahoo 162

Posted by Soulskill
from the doing-it-early-vs-doing-it-well dept.
kjh1 writes "Paul Graham writes about what he felt went wrong at Yahoo. He has first-hand experience — his company, Viaweb, was bought by Yahoo and he worked there for a while. In a nutshell, he felt that Yahoo was too conflicted about whether they were a technology company or a media company. 'If anyone at Yahoo considered the idea that they should be a technology company, the next thought would have been that Microsoft would crush them.' This in part led to hiring bad programmers, or at least not going single-mindedly after the very best ones. They also lacked the 'hacker' culture that Google and Facebook still seem to have, and that is found in many startup tech companies. 'As long as customers were writing big checks for banner ads, it was hard to take search seriously. Google didn't have that to distract them.'"
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What Went Wrong At Yahoo

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  • 'If anyone at Yahoo considered the idea that they should be a technology company, the next thought would have been that Microsoft would crush them.' This in part led to hiring bad programmers

    Did anyone else read this as, they hired lousy programmers so they could compete with Microsoft?

    • by Dancindan84 (1056246) on Friday August 13, 2010 @08:53AM (#33237820)
      No. I read it as no one at Yahoo considering it a serious technology company because of a fear of taking on Microsoft, so they didn't bother hiring decent programmers.
      • by Mantis8 (876944) on Friday August 13, 2010 @11:56AM (#33241204)
        You're probably right. I worked for an outsourced company that did tech support for Yahoo - Merchant solutions (ecommerce) and Yahoo web hosting. The free sitebuilder program really sucked bad. It was written in Java, so I often had to deal with customers who just bought or built their own brand new, high-powered computer, only to have it drop to its knees after installing sitebuilder. It was extremely slow, and full of bugs. We regularly had extremely hostile customers call in and threaten us with everything under the sun. One customer even took down his own home page content and replaced it with a very ugly paragraph about how bad Yahoo is, in bolded, oversized text no less, and left it up there for several days. Another one called us incessantly for an entire day in a feeble attempt to tie up our phone system. Another customer threatened to find us (we weren't allowed to tell customers who we really were, nor what our true address was) and "take us out". I would look at a customer's home page that they just built using sitebuilder, then validate its html code, (http://validator.w3.org/), and it would literally have hundreds of errors in it. Just now, I validated www.yahoo.com, and the results are: 162 Errors, 33 warning(s) for "Errors found while checking this document as HTML 4.01 Strict!". Yahoo is a crappy tech company that doesn't eat their own dog food.

        I read an article about Yahoo on their tenth anniversary. It bragged about how Yahoo's goal was to always remain profitable and that's why they were able to remain viable, while so many other internet companies went down. At first, I thought that was brilliant in a time when so many other companies were biting the dust because they wasted so much money. But then the reality of what their goals are really struck me - all they cared about was money, and not their customers who were paying them.

        In the ecommerce dept, they bragged about having a $3 BILLION dollar annual revenue, but I regularly saw them screw their customers over big time. If a guys account/site couldn't be fixed at level 1 tech support, then they transferred the call up to tier II - standard procedure. But if tier II couldn't fix it, the ticket had to be escalated up to the engineering dept and woe unto them! It usually took 1 - 3 WEEKS to get it fixed!!! To the best of my knowledge, it is still that way. Even if the customers entire website was down, it didn't matter. I heard that they only had 2 or 3 engineers working there to fix thousands of escalated tickets. No wonder it took so long. The longer it took to fix, the more Yahoo would lose money because they made money by getting a percentage of the customer's sales, so if the customer's site was down, both of them lost money. On top of that, they would not even offer an apology, or reimburse the customer for their lost business. Some customers even went out of business because Yahoo took too long to fix a high priority issue. In contrast, one time I had my own site hosted by a local web hosting company selling some stuff, and I verified one morning that my site was down, and it wasn't my computer, internet connection, etc, so I sent in an email to tech support. In 2 minutes, I received an automated response acknowledging my issue and it informed me that some techs were working on the issue. In 15 minutes, I got another email from the techs themselves telling me more details about what went wrong and that they will have it fixed soon. In less than 3 hours, my site was back up and running! If a small web hosting company can do that, then a multi-billion dollar company can do that too, BUT THEY CHOSE NOT TO, so I don't feel sorry for Yahoo. They shot themselves in the foot.

        Yahoo was only interested in grabbing more customers and not keeping the ones they had and they made some very stupid mistakes as a result. Like one time they had a web ad for their merchant solutions ecommerce, bragging about how good they were, but when you clicked on the link to see what customers h
    • by Culture20 (968837) on Friday August 13, 2010 @08:53AM (#33237822)

      'If anyone at Yahoo considered the idea that they should be a technology company, the next thought would have been that Microsoft would crush them.' This in part led to hiring bad programmers

      Did anyone else read this as, they hired lousy programmers so they could compete with Microsoft?

      I read it as: Yahoo bought a Mary-Kay Pink colored car so that Microsoft wouldn't steal it if they had to park on the street.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As a lousy programmer and ex-Yahoo employee, I can confirm this.

    • 'If anyone at Yahoo considered the idea that they should be a technology company, the next thought would have been that Microsoft would crush them.' This in part led to hiring bad programmers

      Did anyone else read this as, they hired lousy programmers so they could compete with Microsoft?

      No. Only you did. In other words, your reading comprehension skills are a sad indictment of our education system.

      • by oodaloop (1229816)
        Or I was just trying to be funny, and your lack of humor is a sad indictment on your lack of humor. Either way.
    • by rockout (1039072)
      Troll??? C'mon, he was obviously trying to be funny. I chuckled. Get a sense of humor, mods.
  • Nothing went wrong at Yahoo because Yahoo never had anything of value to sell. It was all Internet bubble hype. They had a semi-decent email offering and a web catalog. It's amazing they did as much as they did.

    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:17AM (#33238066)
      Actually, their directory was very useful in the early days of the web. Back then, search algorithms sucked and their was nothing like Google around. You could go over to Alta Vista and type in "Independent Film" and get a bunch of sites back about independent contractors, film stock, etc. Yahoo was the only reliable way to consistently find good topic-oriented sites. So they WERE quite valuable in those early days, and could have (and, to some extent, did) make a lot of advertising money. The problem was that Google came along with its much improved searches, and Google's infrastructure wasn't nearly as labor-intensive as a human-edited web directory.
      • by edremy (36408) on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:34AM (#33238230) Journal
        It was even more than that. Search engines didn't suck back in the day. Search engines *didn't exist* when Yahoo started.

        I was a couple of buildings over from Filo and Yang in (chemistry) grad school back when this weird little program called Mosaic appeared. But it was a toy- you couldn't find information on it. You ended up posting lists of your bookmarks so that other people could find the neat stuff you did. Then we heard about these two guys over in Engineering that were collecting links and indexing them (by hand). It was great- finally a place where you could find literally thousands of organized web links as opposed to our crappy lists of a few dozen.

        Yahoo's kind of seen as a pathetic loser these days by the "digital elite" but they had a massive effect on the early web

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by kriston (7886)

          I think Webcrawler would disagree that search engines did not exist when Yahoo started.

          Furthermore, Yahoo wasn't spidering until they licensed Inktomi in the late 1990s and eventually bought them outright in 2002.

          Every little bit of history helps.

          • by steelfood (895457)

            Well, it depends. According to Wikipedia, Mosaic was released in April '93, and Webcrawler went live in April '94. That means there's a full year in when GP's story can take place and still be factually correct.

            Again according to Wikipedia, Jerry Yang and David Filo started Yahoo in January '94, so yeah, I think GP's is correct when he said search engines didn't exist when Yahoo began.

            Either way, search engines certainly didn't get popular until Altavista came around, and then later Google which truly revol

      • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:44AM (#33238394) Homepage Journal

        In other words, the problem with Yahoo is that it didn't scale. Failure was designed in. If the internet succeeded then Yahoo had to fail. That is not a good business model. The problem with Yahoo was Yahoo. Business models based on limited success are stupid.

        • In other words, the problem with Yahoo is that it didn't scale. Failure was designed in. If the internet succeeded then Yahoo had to fail. That is not a good business model.

          No, the problem with Yahoo was/is Google. Google serves/served up semi-garbage results very fast, while Yahoo served up very good results fairly slow - and one truism of the net is that the denizens thereof will eat almost anything, so long as it's fast.

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            No, the problem with Yahoo was/is Google. Google serves/served up semi-garbage results very fast, while Yahoo served up very good results fairly slow - and one truism of the net is that the denizens thereof will eat almost anything, so long as it's fast.

            Look, I was making webpages before Google, before Altavista, before Hotbot. Yahoo was the only game in town. Crawlers were research projects. Back then the total number of interesting websites was very small, so a managed directory approach was viable. As the web grew, it became more dynamic, but Yahoo kept using the same old approach instead of crowdsourcing (the term hadn't yet been invented, but the idea had) ratings. Consequently, the amount of work they had to do kept increasing, where if crowdsourcing

        • by steelfood (895457)

          More likely, they failed to adapt. They kept collecting links and hand-ranking them.

          On the other hand, Google did the link collecting automatically, and came up with some formulas to automatically rank them as well. They still ranked some sites by hand afterwards, but it wasn't nearly as involved.

          Funny thing is, sites like Digg and Reddit are exactly like what Yahoo used to be, except they use their users to rank instead of an employee.

      • by cappp (1822388)
        Ahhh directories - every lad of a certain age's favorite offering, made one hand surfing all the easier...just don't forget to clear the history.
      • Advanced Search.

        The "boring" search box stopped being useful to me ... in 1998.
        I have had a link to Yahoo Advanced search close by on my home jump-pages. Then you just type your phrase in the second line which is "this exact phrase". If you want "Independent Film" ... you got "Independent Film" plus some weirdly wildcard SEO'ed pages.

        Lately I have found a use for Yahoo as an Anti-Google in the Privacy Wars. I am still just fine with my Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Advanced Search, and a couple of other Yahoo items.

        Onl

      • by LWATCDR (28044)

        I actually like web directories for somethings.
        Suppose you are thinking of moving. Or just want to find out about a town.
        You could go to the directory and find all sorts of links to that things in that town or about that town.
        Now I just Google the town and hope the chamber of commerce site doesn't suck.
        Also search doesn't usually find new sites.
        If you create a great site on a subject it will be a while before it shows up in the search ratings until other sites like to you and you rise in the rankings.
        I stil

      • by metamatic (202216)

        I think the real problem was that at some point, Yahoo decided to de-emphasize their search directory and turn themselves into a portal site, because that was the latest hyped-up trend.

        First they started filling search directory results pages with unrelated crap to push their portal concept. Then they got rid of the search directory entirely, and I stopped visiting their site.

        Could they have kept the directory working? Maybe. dmoz.org was an attempt to do so, but by that point everyone had come to rely on G

        • The problem with the portal concept was the timing. I didn't switch to Google because they had better search results, I switched because portal-type pages took 10-30 second to load with my modem, but Google loaded almost instantly. A few years later this would not have been a problem - the difference between a tenth of a second and a second on a broadband connection is not important - but back on a modem it made browsing (sorry, 'surfing the world wide web') a lot faster.

          The new user interface is one o

  • Found this to be a brilliantly written piece of work from someone who knows what he's saying.

  • I Remember (Score:4, Insightful)

    by techsoldaten (309296) on Friday August 13, 2010 @08:57AM (#33237852) Journal

    I remember the days when Yahoo search was the only search engine you worried about (97 - 2001-ish).

    This reads as a cautionary tale about being a first mover. You may be on top one day, but you are trading the flexibiltiy of a start up for predictable lines of revenue that may not last. There are times when it is better to let someone else go first and build your strategy around what they are doing wrong.

    M

    • Re:I Remember (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:06AM (#33237960)

      What universe did you live in? There was a little thing AltaVista in that time period.

      • by Rozzin (9910) on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:13AM (#33238036) Homepage

        What universe did you live in? There was a little thing AltaVista in that time period.

        Indeed: as I recall, the `Yahoo! search-engine' *was* AltaVista (with Yahoo! decorations, but a little "powered by AltaVista" footnote at the bottom)--at least at some point; I think there were different back-ends that they used at different points.... Yahoo! may have actually done their own thing for the last few years, but only for the last few years.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by pinkushun (1467193)

          That would have been around 2003:

          In February 2003, AltaVista was bought by Overture Services, Inc.[10] In July 2003, Overture itself was taken over by Yahoo!.[11]

          ref [wikipedia.org]

          However it's interesting to go back in time and look at altavista.com [archive.org] and yahoo.com [archive.org] :)

        • by Eil (82413)

          In the beginning, Yahoo had human editors scouring what little there was of the web and placing links to interesting sites in their heirarchy. This worked when the web was very small. (Yahoo's predecessors were those big thick Internet Yellowpages books.) When this failed to scale, they tried making their own web crawler and search engine. That didn't work out either, so they outsourced their web search to Alta Vista.

          The only thing that Yahoo has done well since its beginning is convince people to use them

        • by Animats (122034) on Friday August 13, 2010 @03:47PM (#33244830) Homepage

          AltaVista wasn't even started as a business. It was a demo for DEC Alpha machines, one of the first big systems built from huge numbers of rackmount machines interconnected by local area networks. Before that, most big data centers were built around mainframes.

          AltaVista was originally installed in an old Pacific Telephone building in Palo Alto, a few blocks from DEC's research center. Because the building was built for rows of racks and cable trays, their data center was set up like a phone central office, with aisles of open racks bolted to the floor and cable trays above. At the time (1995) the typical data center had cabinets sitting on raised floors. In many ways, AltaVista set the pattern for the next fifteen years of computing.

    • It's OK to be a first mover, as long as you keep moving.

  • Jerry Yang (Score:4, Insightful)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:00AM (#33237884)
    Not taking a $33/share buyout from MS, with Google snapping at your heals? But hey, you got to thumb your nose at the evil MS, right? Of course, it was at your shareholder's and company's expense.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Not taking a $33/share buyout from MS, with Google snapping at your heals? But hey, you got to thumb your nose at the evil MS, right? Of course, it was at your shareholder's and company's expense.

      If you believe Microsoft is evil, or even if you just believe that they are a blight on the face of computing, then either you turn down their offer, or admit that you're a corporate whore who will do anything for money.

      • by Raenex (947668)

        or admit that you're a corporate whore who will do anything for money

        Yang should have admitted that then, because at first he was just demanding more money, and after Ballmer called his bluff, he tried to woo him back. Like the old joke, we've already established that Yang is a whore, the rest is just haggling over price.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Ah, I remember when that happened. Everyone and their grandma went out and bought Yahoo stock
      because they thought it was a sure thing and they would make some easy money. Then when the
      deal fell through, they blamed Jerry Yang, rather than taking responsibility for their poor investment
      choice.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by r7 (409657)

      thumb your nose at the evil MS

      Either that or recognizing how quickly MS could kill a Silicon Valley company like Yahoo (as they did to GO).

      No, I think Yahoo's real Achilles heel can be summed-up in two words: middle management. Well ok, four words: technically underqualified middle management. The low point was when one of these middle managers tried to switch the entire corporate email system to MS Exchange. While that was the lowest of their low points many others continue to be nearly as bad. Bottom-line is that middle managers a

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I remember when the WWW was still nascent back in the early/mid 90s. Yahoo was the premier destination for me - the one portal that was always in touch with what I wanted. Then came Excite and others.

    Could it also be that the other companies mentioned are largely using Linux, which engenders a sort of "hacker" culture. Yahoo historically has been a BSD-centric company, and the BSD guys I know tend to be far more conservative and less "hackerish". I don't know if the platform has anything to do with it, but

    • by mikael_j (106439)

      I know plenty of BSD guys who are very much "hackerish" and consider themselves hackers, they just tend to be a bit more picky about things working properly. Yeah, I remember the late 90s as those dark days when every other app I downloaded wouldn't compile or run because it was written under the assumption that every *nix was just like x86 Linux in every way, and when the devs wouldn't even accept patches to fix their apps because it wasn't a problem for them that did breed a bit of resentment toward the a

  • Facebook (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Danieljury3 (1809634) on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:06AM (#33237950)
    Correct me if I'm wrong but what "hacker" culture does facebook have. Somehow I can't connect social networking and stupid flash games to "hacker" culture.
    • by Tei (520358)

      For once, "not fear of changes". Something that user *****HATE***** is changes, Facebook suffer lots of changes, some bad, some good, on the long term is better for everyone. Is exactly the same changes you may expect on a service labeles "BETA", withouth the label. Facebook is running somewhat like how Gmail is running, always testing new changes and enhancements.

      Note: I *****HATE***** the latest changes in gmail :-)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They mean the employee culture, not the user culture.

    • I don't really think so, but perhaps he was referring to the tendency of Facebook to disregard boundaries with regard to sensitive information. That would make some sense...

      I think more likely he's talking about their corporate culture -- lack of hierarchy, just getting things done, not needing or asking for authorization before you do something cool that you thought of 5 minutes ago, that kind of thing.

    • by rhizome (115711)

      Correct me if I'm wrong but what "hacker" culture does facebook have.

      Well, in addition to having oldschool keyboards that still have question marks, Facebook employees have an example of hacker culture in releasing their HipHop PHP runtime [taranfx.com] to the world.

    • Re:Facebook (Score:4, Informative)

      by blhack (921171) on Friday August 13, 2010 @02:17PM (#33243528)

      Somehow I can't connect social networking and stupid flash games to "hacker" culture.

      Facebook invented Cassandra, as well as Haystack

      Here [facebook.com] is their engineering page.

      Facebook *has* to be a culture of hackers as they really are pushing the limits of scaling (in the same way that google is)

  • Oh Yahoo (Score:4, Insightful)

    by js3 (319268) on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:07AM (#33237972)

    The only thing I remember about yahoo was back in 1995-96 when it was nothing but a single webpage with lots of links maintained by some chinese guy. Essentially that's what it remains..

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      The only thing I remember about yahoo was back in 1995-96 when it was nothing but a single webpage with lots of links maintained by some chinese guy. Essentially that's what it remains..

      Oh, really? [yahoo.com] You, and the folks who modded you up, need to get over your prejudices and get out more.

      Yahoo is a lot more than just links - and is the primary reason why Google has added Gmail, iGoogle, News... and all the other things that aren't search.

  • Media vs Tech (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:10AM (#33238002)

    If you walked around their offices, it seemed like a software company. The cubicles were full of programmers writing code, product managers thinking about feature lists and ship dates, support people (yes, there were actually support people) telling users to restart their browsers, and so on, just like a software company. So why did they call themselves a media company?

    You'd see the same thing at an insurance company, auto company, or any large company that has large in-house development department. And yet, they're not conflicted about if they're a tech company or an insurance company.

    Here's a hint on how to decide. How are your revenues generated?

    Sell software, hardware, algorithms? Tech company.

    Sell advertising? Media company.

    Yahoo! Is a media company and so is Google.

    It's not rocket science.

    • by sorak (246725)

      I think you just shifted attention away from the real question:

      What area should they focus the most resources on? Should they hire the best developers to start working on the "Y!phone", or should they concentrate on coming up with news content, tweaking and maintain the chat rooms, and to creating contests and gimmicks to sell more ad impressions? It looks like they went mostly in the later direction, so I guess you're right about them being a media company.

  • Switch to Google (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jgtg32a (1173373) on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:10AM (#33238006)
    I remember switching to Google back in the day (28.8) and it wasn't because Google was giving better results it was because the Google page would load substantially faster than the Yahoo page.
    • by Haedrian (1676506) on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:14AM (#33238050)

      That''s what actually made google the most popular.

      You had competitors who were cramming all they could into a page - then google came out with their "Banner + two buttons" and that was it.

      I used to use Altavista before.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702)
        I used HotBot.

        Then again, I used HotDog Stand as a windows colour scheme. I now only see in greyscale.
      • by alen (225700)

        that was because wall street was telling everyone to become an internet portal and crap the homepage with crap to try to get people to stay longer than 10 seconds

      • by Raenex (947668)

        The interface was a huge improvement, but so were there search results.

        I used to use Altavista before.

        So did I. I remember looking through pages and pages of AltaVista search results hoping to find what I was looking for. After using Google for a while, I rarely had to look past the first page.

        I also used to use Yahoo as a directory service when I wasn't looking for something more specific with AltaVista. Google took over that too.

  • Yahoo was bought by Southwestern Bell, a family member of mine worked
    for them for over 20 years.

    The "suits" for the most part did not understand field operations,
    and so the ppl making the big picture decisions did not understand
    some of the key things going on in the field.

    When the field techs tried to get the info to them they were basically ignored.

    Alot of US companies go thru this, its nicknamed the Ivory Tower theory.

    Southwestern Bell acts like the ATT of old, and now that ATT bought
    all the Bells back up

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DoofusOfDeath (636671)

      The means and methods will continue to be MBA group-think while the upper crufties will look down there noses at those
      who don't wear a suit and have short uniform hair.

      Yes, but they'll actually be looking down from 10,000 feet in their company-owned Gulfstream jets.

      You might think those people are incompetent, self-important douches, but by some measures they're doing something right.

      • by PitaBred (632671)

        The only thing they're doing right is bleeding money from the people at the bottom and funneling it into the fuel tanks of their Gulfstreams.

        • The only thing they're doing right is bleeding money from the people at the bottom and funneling it into the fuel tanks of their Gulfstreams.

          It's a consequence capitalism. Anyone who can convince someone that they'll be better off with something than without and sell something (themselves, even) will make more money than someone who can only make things. Long term? There is no long term. Make enough money in the short term and who cares.

    • by Rockoon (1252108)
      Just to be accurate here, ATT was the one that got bought out.

      SBC acquired ATT in 2005, and to prove that they did it just for the name, they re-branded themselves as ATT.
  • Bellow is an email I sent to Paul Graham
    Hi

    In the article "what happened to Yahoo" http://www.paulgraham.com/yahoo.html [paulgraham.com] you said

    There's not much we can learn from Yahoo's first fatal flaw. It's probably too much to hope any company could avoid being damaged by depending on a bogus source of revenue.

    At the risk of saying the obvious if Yahoo had been looking to please the consumer, and solve a problem that they were having (in regards to finding information on the internet) they could have avoided bogus s

    • At the risk of saying the obvious if Yahoo had been looking to please the consumer, and solve a problem that they were having (in regards to finding information on the internet) they could have avoided bogus sources of revenue.

      I'd tweak that a bit: they should have taken the bogus revenue, but been wise enough to plan ahead for when it dries up instead of assuming it would continue indefinitely.

      If someone wants to pay you $100 for something that's worth $1, by all means take it -- but also understand that

  • by Rivalz (1431453) on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:38AM (#33238310)

    Service
    1) when google came out and I first heard of it I thought wow what a silly name.
    2) I got past the name and tried it to see how it was different.
    3) It was immediately obvious it was better compared to yahoo.
    4) I stopped using yahoo and other search engines immediately.

    Customer Loyalty
    1) I told my friends and family about google (I rarely suggest anything)
    2) I've had issues with some things google has done over the years but nothing major enough. (I dont use chrome all that much because I don't see it as a far superior product compared to firefox. At least not in terms of Google vs Yahoo when it first gained popularity)
    3) They've built up a certain level of trust that I don't associate with many companies.

    Management
    1) I wouldn't go as far to say they are charismatic but I would say they have a ideology that appeals to some people that could make a lot of money without the help of google but still decide to work for the company.
    2) I've used their service and I'm a loyal customer but the only thing I have to go on for their management is what I can infer from news. But I still think management was a key part to their success.

  • by 3ryon (415000) on Friday August 13, 2010 @10:00AM (#33238720)

    Probably none of you youngsters remember this, but Yahoo! initially didn't do search as much as handmade lists of interesting sites. To make it into their search results your page would be evaluated by a member of their staff. Talk about quality control! In a sense it was an early, massive, blog. I'm not saying that it's a good business model but it was good for the end users. They went away from that model and to spidering the web like all their competitors. Ten years later they're on life support. Coincidence?

    Now Get off my lawn!

    • Offtopic,

      I'm getting a Not Found for your sig link.

    • by buck-yar (164658)

      Not entirely accurate. I had a website up in 1996 and it worked like this. Yahoo used a faceted browse, similar to ebay's organization. If you wanted your site on yahoo, you'd go to a form on the site and submit your url, what descrition you wanted, and what category it would go under. The "QC" you talk about was just making sure it wasn't spam and was in the correct category.

      They didn't select good site and reject bad ones. You could tell this because there were some pretty terrible websites up at the time

  • i remember the early days of the internet. i remember the days before Internet Explorer when you had to buy a browser at retail and it was something called Internet in a Box.

    I remember the days when Yahoo was king of search. it had a cool name, the results were pretty good and for whatever reason it gained mind share from the other 20 or so search engines around at the time. back then everything was on internet time and wall street analysts thought they knew everything and it was right after Yahoo's IPO. Wa

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Friday August 13, 2010 @11:13AM (#33240366)

    Yahoo news stories used to universally take comments from readers. They were actually early with this, but then they cut it off. Fear of lawsuits is all I can think of. Now almost every news outlet on the web lets you comment on the stories. The legal staff and management at Yahoo simply hadn't the balls for even the slightest amount of risk.

    They've also become the poster child of bad web design. The mail login goes through changes every month. They're not an improvement. Currently, you load 3 pages of noise filled unread ad droppings before you can actually log in and look at your mail. They used to have an easy to use weather and TV Guide. The were changed from simple, usable HTML pages to automated, advertising filled junk that made them almost unusable. Then they didn't measure the amount of use after the changes and modify accordingly. In fact, I doubt if they pay significant attention to users at all.

    And they're just *sloppy.* I don't know how else to describe a company of that size that can't even keep its comic pages updated consistently.

    Google, in contrast, has a clean look, usability and no ad droppings randomly scattered on pages.

    And they have one more thing. Success.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by 0123456 (636235)

      Currently, you load 3 pages of noise filled unread ad droppings before you can actually log in and look at your mail.

      Strange: I just type 'mail.yahoo.com', log in and I'm there.

      • Yes, you log in once and as long as your browser is up, the next login is faster. Logging in from scratch using slower DSL gets you an empty page. After you start typing, it gives you the next page with a few graphics (deleting your text), and then finally gives you the final graphics laden pages with Yahoo gal or guy who can take 20 seconds to a minute to load depending on connection speed and general internet weather.

        The deal is, 3 separate pages aren't *needed* and you can't depend on the fact that every

    • by istartedi (132515)

      There are still parts of Yahoo that take comments. The trouble is, it's not moderated or filtered in any decent way. As flawed as Slashdot's moderation system can be, at least it has one.

      I will certainly concede that they suffer from a serious case of what I call being "Deja'd". I started calling it that after Deja News (remember that?) updated their web site with bells and whistles, essentially destroying the utility for me.

      The saving grace of Yahoo (and why I still use it) is that they don't kill off th

      • Minor correction. There are still parts of Yahoo that take recently have begun to take comments. I've noticed the return and it's fairly recent.

        "The trouble is, it's not moderated or filtered in any decent way."

        Actually, that's what I *liked* about it. As vile, stupid and depressing as all those comments were, they were an honest reflection of homo computeris, not some filtered, sanitized, disney-fied, fluffy-bunny collection of happy-talk.

  • yahoo mail (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jonpublic (676412) on Friday August 13, 2010 @12:02PM (#33241308)

    Yahoo mail is an example of doing it wrong. No offense, but when my small team at a university can come up with better spam defenses than yahoo has in our spare time, yahoo has a problem.

  • So Yahoo turned out not to be as big as it could have been. So what? A lot of people made money, regardless. The only ones who got didn't were wanks who didn't sell when the selling was good. Sure, PG's pissed^Wsaddened because it didn't turn into the GOOG, but he sort of had a vested interest in that happening, didn't he? Pull the mote out of your own investor's eye, Paul. Really, it's all about the money and most of the people who mattered did just fine by that measure, didn't they?

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