Category: Web

My Memories of Yahoo!

Y!I used to work at Yahoo! for a very long two and a half years, from mid-2001 to the end of 2003. It was a strange period, with monumental shifts in the Internet. Yahoo! was a the center of it all, but the other players were rapidly rearranging themselves. Microsoft, for the longest time the bane of Yahoo! (more accurately, Microsoft’s MSN division, later Live, later Bing) was rapidly driving itself into irrelevance. On the other hand, the tiny upstart Google was starting to bite at its former master’s heels as it managed its entrance into the email market and other derivative of popular and lucrative Yahoo! products.

Things went horribly wrong at Yahoo! When I left, in 2003, the company was doing very well, but the seeds of destruction were visible everywhere. I left because I didn’t believe the company was pursuing the right strategy, and was deploying the wrong processes, and focusing on the wrong people. My bet was expensive – my stock was only half vested, and I left the other half on the table.

After I left, though, there were tons of articles about what had gone wrong at Yahoo!. All of them were written from a specific, political point of view. Essentially, the author was blaming everybody else. There was an article by Brad Garlinghouse, now gone from the Internet, about how the problem at Yahoo! was the IQ of its developers (especially compared to Google). Another article by Caterina Fake highlighted how she perceived Yahoo! fumbling the Flickr acquisition. Caterina was one of the founders of Flickr, and in her generous (to herself) memory, Flickr stood poised to become the company that Facebook became. Oh, if only Yahoo! hadn’t been so short-sighted!

I was surprised by these articles, and by comments made by other colleagues, because they seemed to focus on a single issue, as if addressing it would have completely changed the fate of the company. Instead, I felt that the reasons for the failure were as numerous as the failure colossal. It is a testament to the company’s greatness that it survived the many self-inflicted wounds and is still alive today. But let me enumerate for thee:


Why this site changed name, and why you should be cautious about

You may have noticed the change: this site used to be hosted on the domain Now it is on Why?

Let’s start from the beginning: what was that with the domain in the first place? Well, if you go and look at your old feature phone, you’ll see that the letters that form the name are all first letters on the keypad. G is 4, A is 2, W is 9, D is 3, T is 8. The domain name was meant to be typed quickly on an old-style phone. That’s it. No reference to gawd intended. was taken.

I registered the domain with You know, the guys that spend a ton of money on SuperBowl commercials. I know, I should have known. But I didn’t, and they still are the biggest registrar on the Internet – what could go wrong?

I registered the domain in January, years ago. Expiration of the domain was on 1/5/2012. No need to rush – not even now. Then I started getting emails from about the renewal, starting on 10/7. The message told me that my credit card was set to expire before the renewal would take place, which was on 1/5/2012.


Google+ (or, Why Do I Want to Leave Facebook?)

Well, no sooner had I posted my update on Facebook, that I had lost all my pictures uploaded with KIPI (the KDE plugin for Facebook) that I learned that Google is trying to crush its “evil” competitor again. Google+ is the company’s latest attempt at social networking, and it’s made a big splash in the blogosphere – probably mostly because it’s a private beta, invitation only, and the blogosphere can gush all about the exclusivity of it.

Going by the descriptions of it, Google has spent considerable time figuring out the weaknesses of Facebook and made a concerted effort to remedy. From my perspective, the three major problems of current Facebook:

  1. You have no way to get data out of Facebook if you wanted to leave
  2. You have no control over changes to the visibility of data
  3. You have no real concept of friendship types

Google+ seems to have dealt with all three issues (the fourth, vexing one is the frequency of radical redesigns, something that doesn’t bother me as much).


The Comment Spammer

Strangely, around 6/11, traffic to this site started to skyrocket. Even more strangely, the traffic skyrocketed only in a few metrics, namely pages and bandwidth. The visits and visitors didn’t move much. How odd.

I didn’t pay much attention: after all, I had been updating the site around that same time, although I though I had started after that date. But who is to remember.

After a few weeks, though, I started to get spooked and looked at my AWStats report more closely. There I saw it: a single IP address,, was responsible for over 90% of the traffic. I checked into it on Google, where it said that IP address belongs to a Russian ISP, and that it is famous for comment spam.


Intrade: Obama vs. McCain

Amazing what the web will do! I have been a fan of Intrade for years, using it first to gain a better idea of how the 2004 Presidential election would shape up, and then following the 2006 and now the latest 2008 election. Well, the platform is ever improving, and now Intrade officially tells you to embed the image of their current trades in your site. Here is the probably most important chart of the year, the Obama vs. McCain daily trades:

Obama vs. McCain on

 I thought it might be a good idea to keep it on the front page for a while, so that we all get a glimpse of the future, and how people are betting on it.

Locked out of Facebook (2): The Reply

The reply without comment:

Hi Marco,

Facebook has limits in place to prevent behavior that others may find annoying or abusive.  These limits restrict the rate at which you can use certain features on the site.  You have received a warning because Facebook determined that you were going too fast when sending messages.

If you have also been blocked from sending messages, please note that these blocks can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.  Unfortunately, we cannot lift the block for you.   When you are allowed to resume using this feature, please proceed with caution to avoid reaching the limit again.  Please be aware that the threshold at which you are warned is not a specific number, but rather determined by different factors (such as speed, time, and quantity).  For security reasons, we are unable to provide additional information about this system.  We apologize for any inconvenience.

Thanks for your understanding,

User Operations

Locked out of Facebook

No sooner do I discover the new personals ad on Facebook that I start getting flagged for sending too many messages. It starts with a warning that you are about to exceed your quota for sending messages, that you have to slow down. This message shows up every time you send a message. Then I am shut out: I can use Facebook, can receive and read messages, but cannot send them.

Now, how many messages can you send until you get blocked? I didn't send a lot, despite the Personals app. I counted them, and despite the fact it's hard to figure out from the FB message box, it's about 50 in 5 days.

Would you think that 10 messages a day is such an egregious abuse that you should get flagged because of it? Would you think that if you send a message every hour, that still doesn't count as "slowing down"?


Social Networking (2) – Replacing the Social Graph with Social Gravity

So, after we looked at how {moscontentlink:my primer|I saw Social Networking (SNW) develop}, here is my look at how I see things develop. As I mentioned in the article above, working for Bluepulse made me think about SNW a lot, and I decided the starting point for any conversation on the future of SNW had to be the current standpoint of Facebook.

Now, you see, Mark Zuckerberg has been talking a lot about the social graph. That's the topological graph of people on a social network and the way they are connected. The concept is fairly old, dating back to the original Friendster: you could interact with people depending on their social distance from you, see their profiles if they were your friends' friends, and needed an introduction if they were once removed. 


Social Networking (1) – my primer

You know, having worked for a social networking startup (Bluepulse) made me spend a ton of time thinking about the purpose of social networking (SNW) itself. I had spent a lot of time on a bunch of different SNW sites, pretty much enjoying just the fun of looking at them, at how they tried to solve a problem, trying to get to the bigger picture.

Of course, it all started with Friendster, the grandmother of SNW. We all joined back in the day, and we had find exploring the possibilities of interacting with friends of friends, getting introduced to them. Friendster showed us that we were connected with people in ways we didn't understand, and that those who we may have thought strangers were actually just a party away from us.


Microsoft bids $44M for Yahoo!

Ok, the market and I saw this coming: Microsoft just announced last night they were going to start an unsolicited bid for Yahoo! at a share price of $31. There had been rumors (confirmed with the bid) that Microsoft and Yahoo! were talking about a merger, but (as Microsoft confirmed) they went nowhere fast.

As an ex-Yahoo!, and one that cares about the company a lot, I am sad to see one of the flagships of the Internet (potentially) disappear, but it was a catastrophe long in the making. At the same time, the transaction makes perfect sense for both parties involved at this stage in their life, and I wish the best to both bidder and biddee (that sounds so like bidet…).