One could argue that Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz cut lots of fat at Yahoo and stabilized the organization after a period of takeover turbulence and uncertainty. To some degree she brought a kind of “vision” to the company (cut costs, focus on core strengths and content). However there’s also a sense that Yahoo is not the company it used to be and that there’s a kind of drift there — that Yahoo may be on an AOL type trajectory and that Facebook is taking its place.
As an example, over at TechCrunch Michael Arrington argues that Foursquare shouldn’t sell to Yahoo, which has reportedly been trying to buy it for more than $100 million. He offers some harsh words about the state of the company:
Yahoo’s senior team is grasping at straws, and they desperately want to find a way to stay relevant. But this is not it. What the heck is Yahoo going to do with Foursquare that will somehow turn around their business? Absolutely nothing, that’s what. M&A for PR purposes is not what savvy executive teams do. Whatever tech cred they think they’ll get by buying Foursquare is in their imagination.
Yahoo is a horrendous choice for Foursquare. It’s where startups go to die. They’ve bought so many companies that were so promising, only to see them wither on the vine.
I don’t disagree with most of Arrington’s arguments. One has the sense that there is no “product vision” these days. (There is, I would argue however, a search product vision; execution is the question there.)
Enter former Microsoft executive Blake Irving as the new “Chief Product Officer.” That position was held by Ari Balogh (formerly the CTO) who is leaving the company. The press release announcing Irving’s arrival says that among other things he will be responsible for “product vision”:
As Chief Product Officer, Irving will lead the company’s products organization, which is responsible for the vision, strategy, design and development of Yahoo!’s global consumer and advertiser product portfolio.
Here’s what Irving himself had to say on the Yahoo blog:
Some of you might ask why anyone would say goodbye to surfing and cycling the Central Coast of California or travelling the globeamazing list of leading products around the globe these people have delivered at scale. When I think about what this company has meant to anyone who has used the Internet, worked in the Internet industry, or wanted to reach people across the world, there is simply none better. with their family to take on the job of leading products and technology at Yahoo! My answer’s pretty easy – meet just some of the brilliant people at Yahoo! that want to change the world, and then scan the
From wildly popular services like Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Messenger, Flickr and Yahoo!’s mobile sites and apps, to Yahoo!’s best-in-class content properties like Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Finance and Yahoo! Sports, to many, many other great products across the world, Yahoo!’s product portfolio continues to be the envy of the industry. Those incredible services and their respective audiences bring tremendous value for advertisers, which is why Yahoo! serves up 10 billion ads across its network every day and is the #1 publisher of online display advertising. How can anyone not want to be a part of that?
The flavor of this rationale is not unlike what new Search Products SVP Shashi Seth said about coming to lead Yahoo Search.
At the risk of exposing a pro-Yahoo bias (or at least Yahoo nostalgia), let’s hope that in Irving Yahoo has found someone who does offer a coherent product strategy — and vision — and can help Yahoo regain its footing and momentum.
Image courtesy of Yahoo