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Burden Of Search UI Innovation Now Falls To Yahoo Veteran Laurie Mann
Laurie Mann has been promoted to run Yahoo Search. Mann, who is a man, has been senior vice president of engineering operations at Yahoo since 2002. Prior to that Mann spent a number of years at Oracle in various engineering roles.
The news was first reported late last night by AllThingsD.
Mann fills the position that was previously held for approximately three years by Shashi Seth. Seth left Yahoo in January. He was charged with “innovating in search” on top of the Microsoft algorithm and search index. He presided over a period in which Yahoo saw its share of the US search market decline from just over 17 percent to about 12 percent today.
Much of those loses have gone to partner Search Alliance partner Microsoft.
During an interview at the recent Goldman Sachs Technology Conference in San Francisco, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer expressed frustration that the objective of the Search Alliance — growing the combined market share of Yahoo and Bing — has not been realized. “We want to grow share rather than just trading share,” she commented.
She also said that in the past the Search Alliance had underperformed from a revenue standpoint. However Mayer also praised the company’s working relationship with Bing. “Overall the teams work really well together. And recently we’ve seen some since gains in revenue per search. I do think the collaboration of the teams has been quite good.”
Repeating a kind of mantra from Yahoo, Mayer asserted that it was possible to innovate in search around the user experience and gain share. However, Mayer has more credibility than her predecessors when she says that most of the innovations in search over the past several years have come at the user-interface level: new content in results, instant search, voice search and so on.
During her Goldman interview Mayer identified four key areas of search competitiveness:
- User experience
She said that comprehensiveness and relevancy were present in the Microsoft system already. She also said that Microsoft was making investments in speed, to reduce latency. “Search results have to be fast,” Mayer emphasized.
It will now fall to Mann to spearhead more compelling UI innovations for Yahoo so that it can differentiate from both Google and partner Bing. Thus far, despite a number of interesting and modest UI experiments, nothing has really caught fire with the public.
A LinkedIn testimonial from Yahoo General Counsel Ron Bell says that Mann has “prodigious engineering talent [ ] matched by exceptionally strong business and legal instincts, and he always thinks outside the box.”
If that’s all true, perhaps the combination of Mayer and Mann can breathe new life into Yahoo’s search business. In a nice surprise Yahoo’s Q4 search revenues were up as the company beat analyst estimates.
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