I've never met Yahoo's soon-to-be-ex CEO Jerry Yang, but from all the interviews and talks I've seen, he seems like a pretty nice guy. Unfortunately, nice guys often don't translate well as heads of big companies. It's sad, but to look out for the best interest of your company, you have to be pretty ruthless. Yang, it seemed, had no fangs.
The fact that he's stepping back into his figurehead roll as "Chief Yahoo" is humorous. The name itself sounds like something like "head dunce." And sadly, that is how Yang's tenure as Yahoo CEO is likely to go down in history.
What's odd to me that is I've met a ton of current and former Yahoo employees and they are almost uniformly brilliant people. The same cannot be said for many other companies. For whatever reason, Yahoo has just not been able to pull it together over the past few years.
They should have bought Facebook a couple years ago. I've heard from people that they were also close to having deals with several other now-hot web companies that just never got done (I may elaborate on that more someday in a VentureBeat post). Sure, the Microsoft battering ram screwed them, but Yahoo was not going the right direction before that came along.
In my opinion, Yahoo, much like its former suitor, Microsoft, got Google-eyes. That is, they saw Google go from nothing to king of the Internet at a breakneck speed and assumed what they were doing must ne the right thing to do. So they expanded operations into every realm that Google was getting into. Unfortunately, while Microsoft has Windows and its enterprise stuff to fall back on, and Google has search and advertising, Yahoo really doesn't have much.
It has/had the most trafficked site on the Internet (Google is close, or on top now depending on what you look at and if you combine sites), but it never really leveraged that to much of anything.
It has awesome properties like Flickr, which is still one of the most successful social sites out there, but I'm not sure that anyone outside of Silicon Valley knows it is owned by Yahoo -- unless they got pissed off by the account migration process or the closing of Yahoo Photos.
Yahoo Mail is huge, but let's face it: Sucks compared to Gmail.
In his most recent talks, Yang would go on and on about making Yahoo into a platform company. I don't know what the hell that even means. Most people don't. He might as well have said "we're going to be doing buzzword, with buzzword and buzzword." People don't care.
Yahoo should have stayed relatively small and focused on what it was doing right. Instead, when it failed to buy Facebook, it tried to start a billion different crappy social networks. And worse, it seemed to do them all in a half-assed way.
Now, all the focus seems to be turning to who Yahoo's next CEO will be. There are a lot of big names being thrown out there. Most with plenty of leadership experience. But I think a lot of us still know who will eventually be leading Yahoo: Steve Ballmer.
It may not happen this year, but despite Ballmer's rhetoric that he's not interested in Yahoo beyond its search product anymore, I still would bet that Microsoft will end up buying Yahoo -- and at a significantly cheaper price than their offer last year.
Microsoft is hell-bent on catching up with Google in both search and advertising (again, stupid, in my opinion), and the only way to do that in any meaningful way is to buy Yahoo. Now that Yang, the guy who hurt Ballmer's feelings, is out, it should be easier.
Maybe Yahoo will merge with AOL before then, and make a company that is even more of an albatross for Microsoft to buy.
Let's get some new big companies out here to write about. These guys are boring me.
[photo: flickr/yodel andecdotal]