When Marissa Mayer took over control of Yahoo, the company was in trouble. They may have been one of the internet 1.0 pioneers, but they missed out on search, were left behind on email, and earned themselves a very bad reputation for dropping the ball with startups they take over. Startups would sell to Google, Facebook, Twitter, and even AOL, but Yahoo was falling further and further behind.
Now things are starting to look very different.
Many may have complained about Mayer preventing Yahoo employees from “working form home”, but with all those extra hours in the office Yahoo already looks like a completely different beast. They have taken some big strikes towards the mobile market with the acquisition of Summly, and relaunching a much improved Yahoo app including its technology. They also gave the Yahoo Weather app and beautiful overhaul, which has found some very positive reviews, and acquired flight search Milewise. They also acquired recommendation service Jybe with plans to roll its technology out across a number of Yahoo’s properties, and acqui-hired the social news team from Snipe.It.
They have redesigned the Yahoo homepage, still a big pull for millions of users and month, to make it more perosnalised. They are also not scared of working with other technology companies to improve their offerings, with Dropbox attachments now offered in the improved Yahoo Mail, and Google AdSense units filling up some unsold inventory with their contextual ad units.
This week Flickr has seen a huge upgrade with free users now offered a massive 1 terabyte of storage (that’s over 400,000 8MP images), with photos available in full resolution, and apps for Android and iOS to allow simple uploading from those devices. It appears that Yahoo may have finally woken up to the threat of the combined Facebook and Instagram in this space, and they are doing something about it.
And then there’s Tumblr. Tumblr has seen huge growth over the last few years as it offered a space somewhere between a blog and a twitter stream, so users could easily share images, videos, and short phrases with a few clicks. It is simpler to use than WordPress, but offers more space for creativity that Twitter, whilst still allowing you to “follow” your friends and those you find interesting. It’s a centralised service and manages 300 million monthly unique visitors, with estimates putting their active users at around 150 million. Tumblr has a brand with today’s youth where Yahoo does not, and whilst Google, Twitter, Facebook, and blogging have become mainstream, Tumblr has managed to keep its youthful edge. Tumblr is Yahoo’s re-entry to a youth market, who see Yahoo as an old grandfather of the internet that hasn’t done anything relevant for as long as they can remember.
Some Tumblr users may be annoyed that Yahoo is the company to acquire them, but this may be Tumblr’s best fit as it started to run out of money. Google is a technology company and not too interested in another blog-style platform (they already own Blogger), Microsoft would likely switch off Tumblr’s rather popular adult sections which makes up around 11% of its numbers, and Facebook would likely kill the product and try and roll it into the Facebook behemoth. With Yahoo, Tumblr has found a bed-follow more focused on its success and keeping its “cool”/liberal ideas on censorship alive and well, and the Tumblr team is staying in place. Yes you will start to see more ads on Tumblr, but that was going to happen sooner or later as the company pushed towards profitability anyway. If that’s the only sacrifice, it will be worth it.
Now Yahoo just needs to find itself some traction in video they might finally be back in the game. They have been trying, but the French government put the stoppers on a deal for yahoo to acquire a controlling stake in DailyMotion, but Vimeo would be a far better fit with its creative community anyway. It certainly needs one after its unwatchable live stream of yesterday’s announcements made clear. Yahoo may have bought Broadcast.com from Mark Cuban many moons ago, but a technology company needs to march towards progress and yahoo sat on it laurels for more than a decade, which makes much of that technology now hugely out of date and near worthless. Mayer looks like she appreciates the need to catch up quickly and start pushing ahead with all these acquisitions. Buying Vimeo may catch them up, but an interesting acquisition of SoundCloud or even LibSyn could get them out in front in audio.
[Photograph by Sebastian Bergmann]