Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang has put out a shareholder letter in which he commits Yahoo to pursuing the strategies that have already devastated AOL. To wit:
- Yahoo wants to be the internet “starting point” for ever more relatively naive users.
- Yahoo wants to be an advertising “must buy.”
- Yahoo doesn’t need to excel technologically in its user experience.
This is exactly what AOL tried in the late 1990s, except that they also had the best dial-up connectivity in the world. I know; Linda and I were strategic consultants to AOL then.* And we told them that while the rest of their strategy was excellent, it would be to no avail unless their tools matched the quality of what people could get in the office or elsewhere online. Because if AOL’s technology didn’t catch and keep up, people would just laugh and go elsewhere. (Even my parents, who still use AOL mail, go outside AOL for their web surfing. AOL is getting very little revenue from them, and they’re about as captive as AOL users get.)
*Please note — AOL was a great client, but the people we dealt with are (for the most part) long gone, and our NDAs ran out years ago.
That’s brain-dead. Just consider how far technology has taken Google, how fast gaming technology advances, or how fickle internet users are about switching to the latest and greatest online services. What’s worse, Yahoo seems to mean it, given how many serious technology leader types are out on the street in connection with the recent layoffs.
Pretty much the only remaining hope for the Yahoo brand(s) and services is for the Microsoft acquisition to go through, and for Microsoft/Yahoo to unlock the deal’s huge potential synergies — which, while far from being certain, is at least realistically possible.
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