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: