Now Hang On a Sec…

    January 24, 2006

This week it feels like someone must have cursed our house with a Chinese curse and we’ve suddenly been thrust into “interesting times.” Yikes.

One of the biggest mistakes that some companies made during Bubble 1.0 was to obsess about all the wrong numbers, such as a rising stock price. While it was a welcome distraction from the much harder work of building great products and services, the lack of focus on what matters eventually came back to bite.

Last year I spent the better part of a day in “media training” and learned to be very skeptical of reporters. So when I read the now famous quote: “It’s not our goal to be No. 1 in Internet search. We would be very happy to maintain our market share.” I stopped for a few seconds to imagine how Sue finished that statement. Something like “…what really matters is building the greatest search services we can” or words to that effect.

But I know that it’s more fun to jump to conclusions and write all those doom-and-gloom stories. It sure makes for great headlines, doesn’t it?

If you think we’re just giving up on search, you haven’t been paying attention. Or maybe we’ve not been tooting our own horn enough? I try to tone down that sort of thing here, but maybe that’s exactly the wrong thing to do.

I bet that if we surveyed most searchers about what they’d like us to do, few of them would say “be #1” or “beat Google!” Those things might happen, but they’re a byproduct of doing so many other things right (speed, ease of use, good design, relevance, etc).

Dave Taylor said it well:

I don’t think it’s a confidence issue at all. I think it’s everyone succumbing to the win or die! perspective. Yahoo doesn’t have to be #1 to be a darn successful search system and extremely useful and valuable to the Internet at large.

Who gets to declare the winner? Journalists? The stock market? Measurement companies? Or you, the searchers?

As Robert Scoble said, “There is so much left to do it isn’t even funny.” What is funny is watching someone come along every few months to declare “game over!” on search.

Jeremy Zawodny is the author of the popular Jeremy Zawodny’s blog. Jeremy is part of the Yahoo search team and frequently posts in the Yahoo! Search blog as well.

Visit Jeremy’s blog: Jeremy Zawodny’s blog.