Not too long ago, Yahoo! was the dominant player in all things internet. Google, who? I remember using Yahoo! for just about everything: chatrooms, online games, and more. It was the internet’s one-stop-shop for all things entertainment. However, a lot has changed over the past decade.
Sometime around 2000, I remember picking up nerd chatter about a search engine called Google. It’s simplicity was intriguing (a very minimalist front page), and it returned almost exactly what I was searching for; a far better alternative to Yahoo! (and Lycos, and AltaVista, and Excite – all of which I would routinely use to make sure I found what I was looking for). Google was “cool” and I wanted to be one of the cool kids online.
Today, Google still has the “cool factor” even though most search engines return the same results — even to the point where Google accused Bing (Microsoft) of copying its results. Despite Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook’s attempts to supplant the search engine giant, Google retains its commanding lead as numero uno. With other web properties filling in the gaps for news feeds, online gaming, social networking, chat, and more, we’re left wondering: Where does Yahoo! fit into today’s internet culture?
Yahoo!’s Comeback Plan
A lot of stories about Yahoo! have been popping up on my news feeds lately. Headlines like, “Yahoo CEO’s comeback plan…”, highlight the fact that something needs to happen over at Yahoo! Afterall, they do have shareholders to answer to. *Update: Yahoo! crushed Q3 earnings estimates of 26 cents per share, with earnings of 35 cents per share (a 66 percent growth).
Interestingly, search may not be what brings Yahoo! back into the game. The comeback plan article linked above notes that the new CEO is focusing on technology, not media, as its way to get back in the game. This strategy is different from what the previous, interim CEO, Ross Levinsohn, had planned for Yahoo! before the current CEO, Marissa Mayer took the reigns. Mayer is noted for focusing on improving quality and user experience. It’s about time!
Now, I’m not privy to Yahoo!’s strategy, and I can’t tell you anything more than what we can all read in the news. However, I can tell you some “things” I’ve noticed about Yahoo!, and what I like about them.
In my opinion, Yahoo! does a great job with mobile apps. From MarketDash to Sportacular, Yahoo!’s engineers, developers, and designers all seem to understand what makes for a good mobile experience (why haven’t they figured it out for computer-based interaction?). I have a myriad of Yahoo! apps installed on my mobile devices, but, with the exception of Sportacular and Yahoo! Fantasy Football, I don’t use them much. MarketDash is an example of one such app.
The user interface for MarketDash probably the best I’ve seen out of all the competing finance apps. Bloomberg isn’t that well-designed, in my opinion, but I like how it notifies me about breaking news throughout the day (it makes it easy to stay current with major earnings and economic data releases). For real time quotes, I use ThinkOrSwim, which was acquired by TDAmeritrade a couple years ago.
If you asked my why I don’t use Yahoo!’s finance app more, I guess it’s because of a general lack of cohesiveness throughout the Yahoo! ecosystem. I use Google Finance on my laptop and iPad, not because I think it’s so much better, rather, because I just like Google more. This is what Yahoo! needs to change: it’s image.
Yahoo!’s fantasy football app is something else entirely. I use this app regularly. Mainly, because I’m in a Yahoo! Fantasy Football league – but I like it more than CBS. The CBS app looks great, but it leaves a lot to be desired in the way of functionality. It constantly tells me “data connection lost” and overall runs a big sluggishly. Yahoo! works, and it’s free. Keep up the good work, guys!
Sportacular is another standout app in Yahoo!’s mobile offerings. However, Yahoo! didn’t develop this product in-house; rather, they had the foresight to buy its parent company, CitizenSports, back in 2010 for an estimated $40-50 million potatoes. CitizenSports can’t even be credited for building the Sportacular app itself. Instead, it cobbled together its product through a series of acquisitions; if you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em! Regardless, the acquisition of Sportacular gives me confidence in Yahoo!’s ability to recognize good opportunities, and profit from them.
Yahoo! may be looking more and more to acquisitions to grow it’s brand, and with an estimated $2 billion sitting in cash, it certainly has the financial wherewithal to make some meaningful purchases. The latest reports have OpenTable as one of Yahoo!’s potential targets. But with an enterprise value just under a billion dollars, OpenTable may be a bit out of reach for Yahoo!
While I don’t necessarily have anything against Yahoo! — in fact, I’d like to see them start competing in a more meaningful way — it needs to do more to draw customers into its web. Yahoo! does a lot of things better than other companies, but it hasn’t been enough to get me to maintain multiple user profiles. I’d rather use something not as good as Yahoo!’s service, and keep all my activities under one roof. Perhaps revamping its profile signup/management system would be a first step, maybe it needs to rebrand itself as a mobile first company and scrap trying to do everything all at once.
What do you think the keys to Yahoo!’s success are? Does the beloved search company still have a place in today’s online world? Share your thoughts in the comments below.