Yahoo Still Considers Itself a Contender

Yahoo Social
Remember Yahoo? Apparently the company forgot to read my post about how its star has faded, and it isn't yet ready to shut the doors and call it a day. Yahoo still feels it has a trick or two up its sleeve and deserves a seat at the grownups table with Microsoft and Google.

Prabhakar Raghavan, Yahoo's senior vice president of labs and search strategy made remarks in a Monday press conference indicating its intent to keep kicking. Aside from rolling out changes in their search, web mail, and instant messaging products, Yahoo execs also stated that they still consider Microsoft and Google competitors and have every intention of continuing to do battle.

I think Yahoo is dillusional. When I hear Raghavan say about Microsoft Bing that "We're the Yahoo Search experience and that will continue. It's completely independent of anything they choose to do" I envision Don Quixote valiantly jousting windmills on the back of an emaciated horse.

During the press conference Raghavan also said its not Yahoo's goal to battle mano y mano y mano with Google and Bing for a share of the search market, but that it strives to be the portal through which users access search, mail, content, and other web resources.

News flash: the web portal concept was already done. Yahoo was one of the leaders of the web portal charge that more or less helped novice users ween off of spoon-fed Internet providers like America Online and venture out into the wild Internet without having their hands held. The Internet audience has matured beyond the portal.

Of course, Google is experiencing its share of success by providing a diverse plethora of Web-based tools, and iGoogle seems to be its attempt at providing a portal-like experience that ties some its other products and services together (although I think Google could do a much better job of providing more intuitive links to those products and services...but that's another story).

So, Yahoo has surrendered the actual crawling and indexing of the vast interwebs to Microsoft Bing, but it can still put its own shade of lipstick on that pig. Raghavan said as much by stating that Bing may be providing the engine, but Yahoo is still free to create its own ‘search experience'.

Can the Yahoo ‘search experience' be compelling enough to compete with the vast resources of Microsoft and Google? I doubt it. The products and services in Yahoo's arsenal are barely distinguishable from those offered by its rivals, and trying to dress it up pretty to cater to a shrinking audience of users who rely on portals to navigate the Web is a dead end business model.

Yahoo has also indicated a desire to jump back into social networking. It had previously tried to be hip and trendy with the Yahoo 360 service which couldn't compete with the likes of Facebook and MySpace and was eventually abandoned. The new Yahoo mail interface offers some Facebook and Twitter-like features, and today Yahoo announced the purchase of Maktoob.com, the Arab world's largest online community. Social networking is filled with its share of Goliath's as well and is not a market for the faint of heart...or resources.

The one area where there appears to be innovation and room for growth and competition on the Web is with the robust applications that let users work productively from the infamous ‘cloud'. Google has led the way in that arena with Google Docs and other products. Google has already announced Google Wave which will provide a Web-based communications and collaboration platform. The thing is, while there is room for competition, Yahoo doesn't have the intellectual or financial resources to fight that fight with Google.

Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com.

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