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Friday, March 04, 2005

Yahoo!?

Just wanted to add something to my earlier comments about Yahoo. This is prompted by a Geocities site I just visited, (Geocities, as you're probably aware, is a Yahoo property), and it will fall under the heading of rant. Just so you know.

It's interesting to contrast the styles of Yahoo! and Google. The Google identity, much like that of Apple, is based on minimalism: understatement, subtlety, and the appearance of cool. The Yahoo! model, on the other hand (and as is indicated by the exclamation point), is characterised by the opposite of that: a jangling, whirring, pop-up advertising presence that hits you over the head at every opportunity. The underlying ethos seems to be one of "we'll build in so many useful features, people won't mind putting up with this." So the approach to the user, in terms of advertising, is adversarial.

This adversarial approach is an old school way of thinking about the user. From Yahoo's standpoint, their customer is clearly not the user but the advertiser. This is no less true for Google, no doubt, but Google's different approach leaves the impression that their intended customer is the user, and the advertiser is just along for the ride. This gives Google a lot of cache (most of it unwarranted but all the more valuable for that) and the appearance of integrity (equally unwarranted but ditto its value to them). From a user standpoint, Google's approach to advertising makes their products - search and so on - a great deal more pleasant.

Nowhere in Yahoo is this hit-em-over-the-head advertising more egregious than in Geocities. For me it really renders the sites unusable. In general when I see that a site is located at Geocities, I don't even bother visiting, because I know what I'll have to put up with if I do.

All of this is a shame, because there is a lot of value locked up in Yahoo's technology and R&D - more so than in Google. Yahoo's approach has met with financial success - which gives them no incentive to change - and brand identity often reflects something systemic - such as corporate culture - making change difficult. But for the long term health of Yahoo - and that of its users - they really should give serious thought to toning it down. Or, better still, re-think it altogether.

I know, I know. Not going to happen.



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