Yahoo Inc. was once one of Silicon Valley’s top companies on the cusp of cutting-edge technology. In recent years, though, its position has slipped as other companies have been able to deliver more high-quality services. In an effort to reinvent its image, Yahoo has hired Marissa Mayer, its sixth CEO since 2007.
Mayer comes from Google Inc., where she was the first female engineer. She eventually went on to become a key executive with the company, overseeing many of Google’s top products. With such a talented work history, Yahoo has high hopes for her to bring the change needed there. But the questions remain: What changes are needed, and will they be enough?
The main problem with Yahoo has been that it has not clearly defined what type of company it wants to be. Due to this inaction, Yahoo has not upgraded its products toward a goal. It has many good products, but none of them are currently top of the line.
Yahoo Mail once had many new features, but Gmail has since taken many of its users. GeoCities was also a very popular web hosting service in its peak times, but it has since been shut down everywhere except Japan.
Flickr, an image-hosting web service, is one of Yahoo’s few assets about which people still feel deeply. Ironically, it also most closely illustrates the downfall of Yahoo. The service has been a great site with a great community, but it hasn’t done anything to improve itself in the past few years.
Flickr was the place where people would rush to upload their photos, but Instagram has taken over that space. It was also the site where people would upload photos to share with friends and family, but Facebook has taken over that use. Yahoo’s relaxed attitude toward Flickr has allowed others to come in and take away some of its photo-sharing market. While it is still a great site for photographers to share their photos with the world, it may only be a while before everyone migrates to SmugMug.
What Yahoo needs to do is to realize that their biggest asset is their clients. Many still use them as a news source and webmail provider. Yahoo is still the fourth-most-visited website in the world according to Alexa.com. It is slowly losing users, but retention is not its biggest issue. Yahoo needs to start delivering products that compete with the newer, flashier ones offered by its competitors.
It will be up to Mayer to decide which services to keep improving and which ones to cut. Hopefully, she cuts more than she keeps.
Roberto Salome is an alumnus with a Bachelor of Science in computer engineering and can be reached at [email protected].