Yahoo – It’s Not Easy Being Yang

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It’s no crime that Yahoo was slow to recognize social networking as the replacement for web portal stickiness, and CEO Jerry Yang wants to start bringing the masses back to Yahoo, if only for a brief visit.

Yahoo has websites that draw millions of visitors each month. They routinely track at or near the top of the Web’s most heavily trafficked properties. Yet there’s been a sense that the company could do more, a feeling that led to the ouster of former CEO Terry Semel and Yang’s return to the big office.

In the earlier times of Yahoo’s growth, they and most other websites worshiped stickiness as a virtue. Keeping people within the periphery of the top-level domain mattered the most.

But time flies and people’s habits change. A Reuters report cited Yang, commenting at a Yahoo-sponsored advertising conference, saying Yahoo would try to return to making its big properties “starting points” for web surfers.

“Openness is upon us,” said Yang. “There is an opportunity for Yahoo as a huge publisher to play the open game and do that as a strategy.”

Yahoo has made strides in opening technology, like with Pipes, and support for several languages to connect with Yahoo’s Web Services.

On the social networking side, Yahoo has made several acquisitions in the space, such as Delicious and Upcoming. They lack a single strategy of melding the best of the technologies they own into something Facebook-like, that would be greater than the sum of its parts.

It’s easy enough to identify what Yahoo, and Yang, needs to do. They have a lot of pieces that need to be connected together, in a way that people can use them effectively from one interface.

There’s just one problem: Yang. He told Business Week he doesn’t want Yahoo to be Facebook, nor does he want to replicate other sites.

That’s a noble position, but it may not be the one the big institutional investors, those who have gravitational pull when it comes to money matters, want to hear. Yahoo has the assets in place, as Yang said, but if he doesn’t let the engineers play with those toys to help the company roll with the times, what good did all of the non-advertising purchases do for the company?

Yahoo – It’s Not Easy Being Yang
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