Yahoo: We Try Harder?
Looks like Yahoo CFO Susan Decker was ahead of her time when, in January 2006, she more or less conceded the battle for search market share to Google. “We don’t think it’s reasonable to assume we’re going to gain a lot of share from Google,” she told Bloomberg. “It’s not our goal to be No. 1 in Internet search. We would be very happy to maintain our market share.” That comment got her into a bit of trouble in the media and at Yahoo as well. And here we are a little more than a year later and Tapan Bhat, vice president of Front Doors, Yahoo’s personalized home page, is telling people pretty much the same thing. But he’s not taking as much grief for it.
“Search is no longer the dominant paradigm,” Bhat told attendees of the Next Web conference in Amsterdam. “The future of the Web is about personalization. Where search was dominant, now the Web is about ‘me.’ It’s about weaving the Web together in a way that is smart and personalized for the user.”
Search no longer the dominant paradigm? Damn. Too bad the company spent so much money on All The Web and Alta Vista (part of the Overture Services acquisition). And Inktomi. And Alibaba and … I’m kidding, of course. Clearly, Yahoo’s not conceding here. It’s just shifting the playing field a bit, as Bhat himself later noted: “We’re not admitting defeat,” he told the London Times Online. “Search still matters, but we need to be providing a wrapper around search to turn the info-search offers up into something more useful.”
So no, Yahoo’s not fleeing into the woods, its exclamation point flopping wildly about in the wind. It’s just trying harder–you know, like Avis Rent a Car. And to be fair, Bhat’s comments echo some things we’ve been hearing from Google’s leadership lately as well. Asked recently how Google might look in five years’ time, CEO Eric Schmidt said: “We are very early in the total information we have within Google. The algorithms will get better and we will get better at personalization. The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as ‘What shall I do tomorrow?’ and ‘What job shall I take?’?”
UPDATE: Yahoo, which claims Bhat was misquoted in the UK Times report on which this post is based, issued the following statement on its commitment to search.
Web search is a top priority for Yahoo! and we are committed to developing and investing in new technologies that will shape the future of search. We believe personalization tools complement our efforts in search and will play an important role in delivering the most relevant information to help consumers get a more complete answer.”