Why Yahoo Failed

[ The New Yorker ] Vauhini Vara:

Mayer identified a few reasons why. First, Yahoo didn’t employ enough mobile engineers. Second, it had put too many resources into too many apps, when it should have been focussed on making a small number of apps excellent. And, third, its engineers were using HTML5, a programming language that let them build apps that worked fine on most mobile devices, but that tended not to be especially well tailored to any single mobile operating system. Mayer went on a hiring and acquiring spree, increasing the number of mobile programmers the company employed from about fifty to five hundred. She dedicated resources to redesigning Yahoo’s most popular apps–including the ones for e-mail, weather, finance, and sports–and on creating “native” apps built for each major smartphone operating system.

1. 500 mobile programmers? Instagram had 13 before it got acquired by Facebook.

2. I use Yahoo Weather from time to time, but most of the time I just ask Siri. I still have a Yahoo email account, but like most of you I’ve moved to Gmail. One of the biggest reasons is Yahoo did a terrible job of filtering spam for too many years. I got tired of deleting spam. This isn’t just a mobile-first problem. It’s a problem of not knowing what pains the user and doing something about it to make it less painful and eventually getting to users enjoying your app. I use Flickr as a photo backup service — 1TB of free storage is nice — and photos on DISPLAYBLOG are linked to those backed up on Flickr. Flickr is useful, but I don’t enjoy interacting directly with its UI; it’s confusing. Let me rant about a two more things: Don’t let CEOs design logos. The Yahoo logo is terrible. And that dreadful purple has got to go.

3. HTML 5-based mobile apps “worked fine on most mobile devices”? Define ‘fine’.

Yahoo has become mostly irrelevant to my computing life. Unfortunate.