Why Yahoo's announcement today won't get as much hype as Google's

Google shipped a new thing last night, called Latitude. I already put it on my cell phone. It lets me tell my friends where I am. Pretty cool, right.

But today’s Yahoo announcement of Search Pad should have gotten more hype, but it won’t. As I type this at 7:35 a.m. my old boss, Vic Gundotra, who now is VP of Engineering at Google, solidly has hold of the top spot on Techmeme. Yahoo’s announcement shouldn’t threaten it. First, since you probably haven’t heard of Yahoo’s Search Pad, here’s what it does:

Let’s say you are heading to Austin for the SXSW conference next month. If you were using Yahoo’s search engine (hint: most SXSW’rs haven’t been on Yahoo in months) it would notice that you’re doing a variety of associated searches about Austin. It would save those into a new kind of notebook. Or, if it didn’t notice for some reason that you’re looking for Austin hotels, Austin BBQ, Austin restaurants, fun things to do in Austin, etc, you could start your own Search Pad and copy and paste Web pages into it.

On the surface of it Yahoo’s innovation is the kind of thing that would have early adopters like me slobbering all over myself to tell you about.

But I’m not. Here’s why:

1. When Google released Latitude last night it was available to everyone. I never even heard about Latitude from Google until the press release came into my Gmail account and when I clicked the link to try it out it all worked and I instantly told my friends on friendfeed about it and they all tried it out too and we had a big conversation about it. When Yahoo releases Search Pad today? It’s not available to everyone. Only randomly-selected people. I can’t force it on. I can’t test it. We can’t talk about it.
2. When Google released Latitude it might not have been the biggest idea, but it was aimed at a shifting paradigm: mobile phone users. Yahoo’s Search Pad? Aimed at old school web users. These people are not being forced to change their behaviors, so will be tougher to convince to try anything new. Let’s face it, if you get a new iPhone, you are going to try a TON of new things compared to the web. That’s a paradigm shift and hype comes with things that latch onto paradigm shifts.
3. When Google releases things it usually has some goodies for alpha geeks. There’s usually an API, or an advanced feature or two that only people who read Stack Overflow, Scripting News, or Life Hacker can appreciate. Yahoo’s announcement this morning? No such thing. Google’s announcement? Has tons of language that appeals to early adopters. When I interviewed Yahoo’s Tom Che, Senior Director of Product Management yesterday he admitted they were going after everyday users with Search Pad. When I asked him if I could bundle up a bunch of things in a Search Pad and forward them to Twitter, the answer was “no.” When I asked him if I could get a URL to the Search Pad, the answer was “no.” When I asked him if I could share a Search Pad with my friends, the answer was “no.” When I asked him if it would work with Google’s search engine (sorry, most of us won’t switch to Yahoo) the answer was “not really.” (You can manually enter things into a Yahoo Search Pad that you’ve found on Google, but it won’t automatically build a Search Pad for you the way it would if you were over on Yahoo’s search engine).

So, excuse me if, when you see me doing interviews today in San Francisco (I have a ton of them), I am much more excited about Google’s future than Yahoo’s future. Yahoo doesn’t get it: to get its stock price to go up and to get people like me to get excited about its future they need to care about early adopters. It’s clear they don’t care, so why should I?

Can Carol Bartz pull Yahoo out of its funk?

I read over on Kara Swisher’s blog that Carol Bartz, former CEO of Autodesk, is taking over as Yahoo’s CEO.

Well, this is an improvement because at least Carol can spell technology, unlike other previous Yahoo CEOs.

But, can she pull Yahoo out of its funk?

First, remember that Yahoo is still one of the biggest web sites out there. Yes, its PR is terrible. Yes, it has lost many, if not most, of its smartest people. Yes, Google has just out played it in nearly every way. Yes, Microsoft cut off one of its legs. Yes no one I know is excited about Yahoo anymore. My early-adopter friends are even blase about Flickr now.

But Yahoo still has hundreds of millions of people who visit its home page, use its search, use its email, or use its instant messaging service.

Carol’s job #1 is to focus on those. She better — in her first month — find all 14 smart people still left at Yahoo and bring them together to reinvigorate those services, integrate them together, and start work on a live-web service that will look something like Facebook or friendfeed. Do that and Yahoo might live to see another day.

Of course that means pissing off tech bloggers like me who want new features in “the sexy services” at Yahoo like Upcoming.org, flickr, etc.

But Yahoo is in a good position — if it builds a decent news feed like what friendfeed and facebook have and does it quickly. That is the key to integrating all of its services together (and giving its sexy services like Flickr and Upcoming.org a shot).

Demonstrate that Yahoo has a clue about the “live web” and it has a shot. Google hasn’t demonstrated it understands that yet. In fact, Google has been really demonstrating deep cluelessness with how it is handling Feedburner. Microsoft hasn’t demonstrated it yet. They are still bragging to themselves that they could build a Twitter clone in a week in Silverlight and Microsoft Mesh.

Carol has one shot to pull up on the stick at Yahoo. One engine is still sputtering in that plane and it just might pull out of its dive. Here’s hoping that Carol finds those smart people and does something fast.

A new search engine appears: will you use it?

Tonight a new search engine showed up. Techcrunch has the details. So do tons of other blogs. Search engine guru Danny Sullivan has a great post about the new engine, Cuil, (pronounced “cool”). I wasn’t pre-briefed or anything. Like I said last week I’m trying to get out of the PR game and try to get back to what made me like blogging: sharing information with other users.

So, has anyone figured out a good way to quickly test search engines? I haven’t. Everyone has their own search terms that they use to judge whether or not an engine is interesting.

I remember when I was trying to convince my dad to move from Alta Vista to Google he had a bunch of very specific scientific searches he’d do. He used to love showing me that Alta Vista had more and better results. I kept at it. After about two years he switched to Google too.

Today isn’t like back in the Alta Vista days. Back then there was porn and spam that was showing up in my result sets. Google doesn’t have those problems and usually works for almost anything I search for. When it doesn’t work, I try some of the other engines, or just refactor my search and it almost always works. I can’t remember the last time I was totally stymied by Google.

But, what’s great about the blogosphere is that everyone gets to participate. Look at TechCrunch’s early searches and the comments that are coming in. I, too, think that Cuil is going to face an uphill battle based on my early searches.

On the other hand, let’s give Cuil the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say it actually was a better search engine. I still doubt many people would switch. Why?



Well, my Firefox browser has Google built into it. Most people have no idea how to switch it. Most people, on our tests, really don’t understand much of anything except that that little box probably now goes to Google. The Google.

It’s so pervasive of an expectation at this point that many people type URLs into that box. Or, type the word “Yahoo” into that box so they can get to their email and other Yahoo services.

Is Cuil going to be able to get into this game?

No way, no how.

On mobile phones it’s worse. My iPhone has Google built in. No way that Cuil is going to be able to rip out Google and replace that with its own engine.

So, why is Cuil here?

I think it’s a play for Microsoft money. Microsoft needs to get back into the search game, so will continue buying companies to try to get back into the search game. Yahoo, if run by management that’s rational, will probably start doing the same thing.

Look at Powerset. They cashed out early to Microsoft. Cuil probably will do the same thing if it brings enough to the table.

Just for fun, though, and to get back to being a user, let’s try one search:

Barack Obama’s technology policy

I put that into all the search engines without any quotes, just to see which one does the best job. Here’s the result set:

Cuil (gave an error, couldn’t find any results)
Google. (best of the three)
Yahoo. (close to Google, but not quite there)
Microsoft. (by far the worst of the big three, didn’t bring the technology policy up as the first result).

Anyway, I did a bunch of other searches on Cuil and they are trying to be different, that’s for sure, but I didn’t see enough of a need to try it out further.

How about you?

Why Microsoft will buy Facebook and keep it closed

Cartoon about something important happening on Web

It no longer is about Data Portability or Social Graph Portability, if you will.

I’m hearing these rumors too that John Furrier (my ex-boss) is reporting. That Microsoft will buy Yahoo’s search and then buy Facebook for $15 to $20 billion. Add that to all the news that Microsoft is buying Yahoo’s search and that gets very interesting.

That just changed the whole argument of Facebook vs. Google to one of Microsoft vs. the Web.

Think about this just a second.

Let’s say Microsoft gets Yahoo’s search. That doesn’t look that brilliant. After all, we know Google is gaining share there and taking Yahoo’s best advertisers (and let’s just forget Microsoft’s efforts, which have been an utter failure so far).

But these two moves would change everything and totally explain why Facebook is working overtime to keep Google from importing anything. First, let’s look at what is at stake here:

Loic Le Meur did a little test with me a couple of weeks ago. He listed his Le Web conference on both Facebook and Upcoming.org. Here’s the Facebook listing. Here’s the Upcoming.org one.

The Facebook one can’t be seen if you don’t have a Facebook account. It’s NOT open to the public Web. Google’s spiders CAN NOT REACH IT.

He put both listings up at exactly the same time and did no invites, nothing. Just let people find these listings on their own.

The Facebook one is NOT available to the Web. It has 467 people who’ve accepted it. The Upcoming.org one IS available to Google and the Web. It has 101 people on it.

This is a fight for the Web. We all just crawled inside a box that locks Google out.

Don’t believe me?

Go to Google and do a search for “Le Web 08.”

Do you see a Facebook entry there? Nope. Google is locked out of the Web that soon will be owned by Microsoft. We will never get an open Web back if these two deals happen.

This has created HUGE value for Microsoft and has handed Steve Ballmer an Internet strategy which brings Microsoft from last place to first in less than a week.


Now Microsoft/Yahoo search will have access to HUGE SWATHS of Internet info that Google will NOT have access to.

Data and social graph portability is dead on arrival.

Microsoft just bought itself a search strategy that sure looks like a winner to me.

If all this is true there is no way in hell that Facebook will open up now.

It’s Facebook and Microsoft vs. the open public Web.

Can the open public Web fight back? Yes. It’s called FriendFeed. Notice that FriendFeed replaces almost all of Facebook’s killer features with open ones that are open to Google’s search.

So, now, do you see why I’m so interested in FriendFeed? It’s our only hope to compete with Microsoft’s new “buy enough and keep it closed” search strategy.

Don’t think this matters? It sure does. Relevancy on Yahoo search will go through the roof when it has access to Facebook data and Google doesn’t. People will see that Yahoo has people search (something I’ve asked Google for for years) and Google doesn’t. That’ll turn the tide in advertising, and all that.

Brilliant move, if this all comes true.

I’ve SMS’d Mark Zuckerberg and asked him if he’s selling. I doubt he’ll answer. I hope he holds out for more than $20 billion. He just might get it.

UPDATE: Someone on Twitter (Soulhuntre) says that it doesn’t matter as long as HTTP keeps working. That’s just the point. Facebook BLOCKS HTTP if you aren’t logged into its system and it can remove you at a moment’s notice. @irinaslutsky (former employee of mine) was removed last week from Facebook. This is a scary company and if it gets in the hands of Microsoft will create a scary monopoly.

UPDATE2: thanks to XKCD for the cartoon. I love those cartoons.

How will Yahoo heal after Microsoft walked away?

Yahoo is a bleeding animal. Left lying, gasping for its breath, after a larger animal (Microsoft) struck and then walked away after it proved too difficult to eat. (That was just announced a few minutes ago).

How will Yahoo heal?

Some daunting challenges:

1. The perception itself that Yahoo is a wounded animal.
2. The bleeding of interesting employees, both due to layoffs as well as people just leaving to join stronger companies.
3. The trouble that it has keeping its search market share.
4. They started working on a deal with Google to sell its advertising. That’s going to prove tough to get through regulators and will cause public opinion to turn against Google, so I believe that Google deal will fall apart soon.

So, if you were in Yahoo now, what would you be doing?

Me? I would first rally the troops. Offer some real financial packages to key employees. Release a video tomorrow that explains why Yahoo believes it is worth $37 a share (people I talk with don’t believe it is).

But after that, how do you do the real work of regaining momentum? Think about college students. Would anyone want to go to work there this summer? Google and Facebook seem a lot cooler than working at Yahoo.

If Yahoo’s management can stop the bleeding and get up and start running again, it’ll be quite impressive. I just don’t know that it has enough life in it to do that. Plus, when Rocky and me heard the news (we were driving back from Maker’s Faire) we both looked at each other and said “shareholder lawsuits.”

The bleeding might just start to be apparent. Tonight I’m going to a dinner with a ton of CEOs and I’ll ask around what they would do.