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  • 06.23.08

Jerry Yang Hatred Reaching Hysterical Levels

It’s been a few days since Microsoft reportedly walked away for good from discussions with Yahoo, and the vitriol being hurled at Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang is really something to behold. There certainly are facts to back it up, but the uniformity of the conventional wisdom and the level of anger puzzles me. Some of the coverage has taken on a very personal tone. You can easily picture the veins bulging as Michael Arrington at TechCrunch screams Yahoo can’t possibly make more mistakes:

It’s been a few days since Microsoft reportedly walked away for good
from discussions with Yahoo, and the vitriol being hurled at Yahoo CEO
Jerry Yang is really something to behold. There certainly are facts to
back it up, but the uniformity of the conventional wisdom and the level
of anger puzzles me. Some of the coverage has taken on a very personal
tone.

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You can easily picture the veins bulging as Michael Arrington at TechCrunch screams Yahoo can’t possibly make more mistakes:

http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/06/13/massive-destruction-of-shareholder-value-employee-morale-and-internet-health/

Joe Nocera in the NYTimes rips into Yang and accuses him of violating his fiduciary duties and “stiffing” shareholders: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/14/business/14nocera.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&oref=slogin

Kara Swisher at All Things D already has a list of possible successors prepared:

http://kara.allthingsd.com/20080617/boomtowns-short-list-of-yahoo-ceos-sorry-jerry-but-fortune-favors-the-prepared/

Each executive departure is shown as proof of internal chaos — even
when people like Jeremy Zawodny go out of their way to deny any
connection:
http://jeremy.zawodny.com/blog/archives/010336.html

So what’s wrong with the conventional wisdom? Seems to me it’s
focused too much on stock watching, assumes a merger with Microsoft
would be successful and would curb the dominance of Google, and can’t
conceive of the status quo changing. Let’s take those quickly in order:

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  • Didn’t techies used to complain about business types obsessing over
    quarter to quarter numbers, and failing to see the need for the
    long-term view? And do the shareholders of Yahoo need Michael Arrington
    to go into a frenzy on their behalf? Investment comes with risk. If you
    don’t like how a company you’ve invested in is performing, you sell the
    stock.
  • A majority of mergers fail. Everyone knows this, many forget in the
    excitement of mergers and acquisitions. Poor planning, executive
    distraction, culture clashes and an internal focus on integration that
    hurts day-to-day performance are just some of the common causes. And is
    there any proof that Microsoft and Yahoo today exerting any moderating
    influence on Google’s rates? If not, then why assume a combined
    MicroHoo would?
  • To think the status quo can’t be changed is showing a lack of faith
    in technology and innovation. Who saw Google coming when Goto.com first
    started offering bids for search ad placement in 1998? Will no company
    ever challenge Google? And this view is very North America centric —
    in other global search markets Google has nothing like the share it has
    here. Internet growth is fastest in areas like China, where the search
    engine Baidu.com reigns supreme.

So I’m not totally alone on this ledge, a couple of interesting
posts. Tim O’Reilly talks about an Internent Operating System of which
search is just a piece, and encourages Yahoo (and Microsoft) to find
new ways to excel:

Meanwhile, Yahoo! has let itself be defined by the same kind of
penis envy. Here is a business that has beaten Google in area after
area, that is unquestionably the #1 media company on the net, and yet
has let itself be defined by the one area in which it is #2 — and
where it could be much more profitable and successful by partnering
with #1 than by competing with them.

http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2008/05/microhoo-corporate-penis-envy.html

And here’s a good read from Bernard Lunn of ReadWriteWeb, where he outlines 11 areas of possible opportunity around search:

My first post for ReadWriteWeb (nearly a year ago) started with
the premise that search was “game over”, that Google had won and the
only opportunity left was (re)search – i.e. what one does after the
basic search. Unfortunately, none of the search start-ups since then
has made a dent in Google’s relentless march towards search market
dominance. In this article, we outline 11 search trends that may change
that.

The proposition that launched countless search start-ups was: “If
we can get just 1% of the search market, we will have a very valuable
business”. That may be true, but getting 1% has proved elusive. It has
been an all or nothing game. That may be about to change.

It is possible that Google will not be beaten by one big
competitor. It is possible that they will be pecked at by thousands of
tiny start-ups using a new outsourced infrastructure.

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/11_search_trends.php

None of this means Yang is necessarily the right guy for the job —
he could be gone very soon under the avalanche of negative coverage.
Unlike Kara Swisher, I’ve never spoken to him and can’t give an opinion
on his abilities based on first hand knowledge. And unlike Michael
Arrington I’m not on the speed dial of every disgruntled Yahoo exec
with a juicy leak. (maybe someday this blog will get there…)

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The reporting around the poison pill that was rushed through to make
any MS acquisition harder sure sounds bad. A shareholder suit has been
filed, and time will tell on that front. But it would be nice if some
of the reporting allowed for the possibility — just the possibility —
that Jerry Yang understands the company he founded and can lead Yahoo
to success on its own.

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