Come on Yahoo! dikha de!!

I’ve always felt a little sorry for [[|Yahoo!]] (and I find it ironic that even for such a statement, I need to use the exclamation point). They always seem to be living in the shadow of Google, some times to no fault of theirs. Sure, they have made their share of mistakes, but I think the tech circles, and particularly the media give Y! much less credit than it deserves. And thus I’ve been following the Microhoo saga with some interest, and with a feeling of resignation ([[|full coverage]]).

{{|Microsoft’s hostile takeover bid}}

It would be sad if the merger/acquisition does go through (which I think it will, eventually). Meanwhile, while the long drawn battle plays itself out, I can’t help but wonder why Y! failed to leverage some of its really valuable assets. Honestly, some of their assets have incredible value in them. To some extent I do blame the media (or Yahoo’s PR). I don’t believe that Google does //all// the innovation, nor that all their products are superior to the competition. But still, even if someone in Google sneezes, it gets Dugg and Slashdotted and every one just goes hyper. In this post I’ll discuss some of these issues.

First off, some of the good stuff (I’m not going to mention the usual suspects like Y’s traffic numbers or their share in the web-mail and IM markets):

* Yahoo! is a major supporter and contributor in [[|Hadoop]]: an open source implementation of [[|Google's]] [[wp>MapReduce|MapReduce]]. Complaints of Yahoo playing catch up and “too little too late” apart (I will address them in another post), I do think this is a timely and much needed development, both for Yahoo and the industry in general. A cursory look at the [[|list of places using Hadoop]] is enough to give an idea of the kind of enabler this platform is. An entire community and several other projects are mushrooming around Hadoop including [[|HBase]], [[|Pig]] (bad name if you ask me) and [[|Hypertable]]. Google might have the largest, most efficient MapReduce and BigTable implementations, but their implementations are just that — theirs, and extremely closely coupled to their infrastructure. Opening up such a platform for others and building a healthy community around it is I think a Good Thing.
* Yahoo! Developer Network: This crew has churned out some remarkable products (such as [[|YUI]] and [[|YSlow]]) as well as some really well organized guidelines (such as [[|the Design Pattern library]]).
* [[|Finance]]: the [[|competition]] is not even close.
* Flickr and
* [[|Yahoo! Mobile]]: I have yet to get on the mobile Internet bandwagon, so I really have no first hand experience here. But I’ve heard that Yahoo products have much better support across a wide variety of devices compared to the competition. In fact, until the Java based GMail reader came out, the mobile version of GMail’s web interface was quite lacking.

That said, I feel there are two main areas Y! needs to work on if they want to get back in the game:
* Brand image: Y! needs to work on how they are perceived //externally// as well as //internally//. I feel that people who work at Y! themselves don’t believe in the company, or have the feeling it is somehow not as good as or not as cool as other companies. A lot of Google’s brand image comes from the attitude of its employees, and the work culture. Ditto for Microsoft.
* Streamlined products: Yahoo! Maps and Mail are good applications, but they are far too bloated. Even on my reasonably powerful dual-core desktop, these applications feel sluggish and drive the CPU to saturation which is just not acceptable. In comparison, offerings from Google feel much leaner, load quicker and are more responsive.

In the end, the company that remains competitive and offers the best value to its customers and shareholders will prevail. And I feel that a combined Microsoft-Yahoo entity will not make the space any more interesting. On the other hand (as many fear) I think it might kill and certainly slow down innovation that might otherwise have happened. If Yahoo! can somehow manage to stay afloat on its own, it will at least be a little more exciting. So come on Yahoo! dikha de (translates to “show us”)!!


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