Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Meet the Internet's Human Pinata: Jerry Yang

Well, this was certainly predictable–the mindless piling on of Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang now taking place in the blogosphere, in the wake of yet another setback for the troubled Internet company.

This time, it comes after the collapse of the search advertising deal with Google yesterday.

BoomTown is not saying the co-founder of Yahoo does not deserve criticism for how he has run the company since last summer–in fact, this column has been quite active in following the story.

There are very real questions about whether Yang has the right talent and temperament for the job at hand, as much as he clearly loves the company he co-founded.

After all, the stock is in the basement, after Yahoo (YHOO) lost a lucrative bird in the hand in the form of a $31 per share offer from Microsoft (MSFT).

Next, a weak economic environment is forcing it to cut deeply into the muscle of its many businesses, with slashing out 20 percent or more of costs, a worrisome trend if Yahoo hopes to grow when we all eventually emerge from the downturn.

And, of course, more key executive departures, weak employee morale and an overall inability to clearly articulate the changes Yang has been trying to make at the company, such as its laudable open platform efforts.

Nonetheless, it is simply lazy to just call for Yang’s ouster as the panacea for what ails the company. It’s a feel-good suggestion mixed with a creepy mob mentality that offers no clear path to improvement.

Still, as it is said, intelligence has it limitations, while stupidity is infinite.

Thus, immediately after Yahoogle went down came the specious rumors of Yang getting kicked out with a new Microsoft takeover bid in the works. Way too many sites posted and reposted the “news,” with most not bothering to actually call Yahoo or sources who might know to ask if this might be happening.

As the old cliche goes–if wishes were horses, all beggars would ride–so too it is wishful thinking that Yang would be flushed out just like that.

But, as with Britney Spears in her crazy days, people seem to believe anything they hear about Yang’s demise. Thus, the Google (GOOG) deal had to be the straw that finally broke the camel’s back and the board of Yahoo was tossing him overboard forthwith.

Then, inevitably comes the posts that Yang is sad, friendless and alone, a tragic figure of ridicule. Or, better still, borrowing from “Macbeth”–a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more.

Except for one thing: While a lot of investors, media, analysts and other detractors (including some on Yahoo’s own board) might want to see him step down as CEO, there has to actively be an actual effort on the part of the board to fire him (or, at least, kick him upstairs, back to his former Chief Yahoo job).

While some sources within the company say Carl Icahn and the two board members he brought with him–John Chappelle and Frank Biondi–to the Yahoo board have been reaching out of late to lower-level Yahoo execs to garner info about Yang and his management and also signaling Microsoft that there is renewed interest in reigniting talks, that means little unless the rest of the directors play along.

So far, many sources tell me, they are not.

If I were guessing, it would be Yang who would be the one to initiate any serious talks with Microsoft.

Bizarrely, he kind of did that publicly yesterday at the Web 2.0 Summit, when he said onstage: “To this day, I believe the best thing for Microsoft to do is to buy Yahoo.”

As not being CEO, I think it would also be Yang who will determine when and how that could happen, if at all.

In other words, critics can smack him all they want, but does not mean it will yield the prize they seek.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work