Wednesday, 15 December 2010

A tale of two search engines

Back in the late 1990s Yahoo! had it all, it seemed cool, it had the best index of the web, it was the one must see place that all my friends wanted to work at. After the dot bomb turned in to the dot boom 2.0 Yahoo! was one of the first firms to see its stock rise. But there is probably a life times worth of historical work to identify why Google prospered and Yahoo! collapsed.

BBC News - Yahoo cutting its workforce by 4%:

Yahoo sign at the firm's headquarters

"The redundancies also follow after Google recently announced a 10% pay increase for every member of staff.

In 2008 Yahoo rejected a $47.5bn (£30bn) bid from Microsoft. Today its market capitalisation - the combined value of its shares - totals $21.68bn"

Google logo

Personally I have two experiences of Yahoo! that explain it all for me. The first was the first web site I ever got funding to build back in 1997 called "City of Nations", I sent it to Yahoo to be indexed back when these reviews were handled manually by staff. I kept getting emails for this staff member telling me he could not see the site. It turned out that he did not know that default.html was the root page, and was looking a pages that established navigation frames as the only page.

After he figured that he was suppose to just type in the URL without any of the other html names he had somehow been passed he indexed the site where it belonged, but then send me a series of emails concerning how I should design my site. When I informed him I was not interested in his opinion he started fighting with me.

So it took me about a week and cost Yahoo! probably something like $20 to get my one site in their index.

10 years later my wife and I were doing a presentation on teens and technology and we didn't want to use a power point presentation but show off the possibilities of the web to the group. So we created a Yahoo! Flickr site site to share the slides with the group and collect data. Sad thing was no one could see the slides. Seems Flickr was reviewing all new accounts back then for "moral appropriateness" and you were restricted until one of their staff could review you an approve you. No one without a Flickr site could see it, and the review process was taking months.

Some firms never learn. Some firms have th root of their own destruction rooted in them. For Yahoo! it was not bad technology or extreme greed or even too much evil. Yahoo! didn't understand that the web had to be user centered. Yahoo! always seemed to think it was going to decide for users, from what pages should be tagged as to the moral stature of photos Yahoo! has always found it impossible to trust the community as the driving for for the Internet.

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