Tag Archives: yahoo

Impressions of “We Were Yahoo!: From Internet Pioneer to the Trillion Dollar Loss of Google and Facebook,” by Jeremy Ring

Recently I read We Were Yahoo, a chatty history of the former internet giant by an early employee. We Were Yahoo is similar to an abridged version of the cycle of Bell Labs’ history during the transistor era — Crystal Fire (growth), Life in the Crown Jewel (corporate politics), Optical Illusions (implosion), and Kitten Clone (living death). We Were Yahoo is all of these at once, but fittingly for such a short lived company told through the career of one employee over a 23 year period, 1994- 2017.

It also includes a bizarre kidnapping plot.

I initially was disappointed because the author, Jeremy Ring, is from sales and not engineering. You will learn nothing about the platforms or tools used by Yahoo, only the products and how they were sold. The narrator appears to neither have the critical overview of the entire industry like Sixty to Zero, or the critical perspective of CEO-level overviews like IBM under Lou Gersntner or Ford under Alan Mullaley. Ring’s early career in New York ad sales and his one-day stint working for Paul Allen is fascinating, but I would have preferred to know the engineering challenges¬† Yahoo faced.

Instead Ring focuses on the company’s large-scale revenue sources. Yahoo! went from no monetization, to display ads during the heydays, to keyword ads in the final painful days under Marissa Myer. I suspect some tension is lost in the telling and that a stronger editor could have been useful. Ring emphasizes the difference between display and text, but the enormity of the transition must be comprehended. Display ads work like billboards, generally attempting to create some form of positive brand impression. But keyword ads, displayed in line with search results, target people who are already actively researching a specific service or good (such as hotels in Hawaii or local personal injury lawyer). The latter are immensely valuable — almost all of Google’s market valuation is based on them — and Yahoo was late to develop a technology, was plagued by internal feuds over how it would be developed and monetized, made a poorly thought out alliance with Microsoft in the field, and then failed to internally develop a coherent competitor.

Ring provides color for the otherwise incoherent list of Yahoo CEOs recruited by the company over the years. The list begins with the founders and Timothy Koogle, who oversaw the dotcom boom and bust, and ends with Marissa Mayer. But Jeremy Ring saves most of his fire for Terry Semel, a former Hollywood executive who (in this telling) is the most disastrous CEO in corporate history. He may be. Under his watch Yahoo! declined to purchase Google twice, sabotaged his own deal to purchase Facebook, destroyed the Flickr social network, and intentionally abandoned Yahoo’s position as a technology leader. Mayer, once a beacon of hope and now a lightning rod for criticism, is succinctly described by Ring as having taken the reigns too late to do anything other than (unsuccessfully) gamble on high-risk high-upside investments.

We Were Yahoo could have been better organized. I think a great idea for a book would be to chronologically tell the story of these missteps along with the history of the competitors who did survive — in other words to do for the 2000s web what Console War did for 1990s game machines, or The Four did for 2010s software giants. Additionally, some interesting context is lost. For instance, the Disney Interactive enters the narrative twice — once in its predecessor Starwave, a company that Ring worked for, and again as Go.com, a company that Ring greatly admires. But no connection is made between these firms.

Then there’s the bizarre kidnapping plot against the author. It’s as random and irrational as real life can be. It’s not well integrated with the story of Yahoo at all — but maybe it can’t be. It definitely spices things up!

I read We Were Yahoo in the Audible edition.

Dumping Google and Yahoo for Microsoft Live Search

I am generally skeptical of Microsoft’s Franco-Soviet development process. Nonetheless, I have been using a number of common Microsoft programs, such as

  • Windows XP
  • Windows Live Messenger
  • Wordpad

because they work better than competitors. Yet when competitors are required for certain jobs — such as Jedit for editing programs or Google Talk for online message logging — I use those as well.

With that in mind, I have now modified Firefox to use Microsoft Windows Live Search instead of Google. The moment of truth came when I was searching for my article on Citi MasterCard’s reward cuts. Of the top five Windows Live searches, four bring you to my page. Further, the very top result is exactly the one I’m looking for. However, on google there are only four results, and while three will take you there, none are a direct page link.

(I also found through my experiment that spammer sites are now using “tdaxp” as a junk keyword. Before I started this blog, the only pages that contained “tdaxp” were the raw output of some statistical program. So I guess that’s a move up in the world, heh).

I’ve already noticed this with my evolutionary politics notes, with google typically taking you to the category main page while Windows Live Search brings visitors to the actual post.

I began using google back in the google.stanford.edu era. From then to now, I have never had another primary search engine, or recommend that anyone else do so. Now I can say this: I use Windows Live Search. You should, too.

I have installed Stuart Marshall’s Windows Live Engine for Mozilla Firefox, and have changed Firefox’s default behavior by making Windows Live my default search engine (a now removed copy of Yahoo Messenger sneakily changed this behavior and refused to change it back).

I will still use Google apps as they are useful — Google Talk, Goolge Scholar, and GMail especially — but Google Search is no longer the best in the business. Windows Live Search is.

Update: The side search box has been updated to use Windows Live instead of Google. It now looks like thing like:

Additionally, in both Google and Live Search, my friend Mike’s blog “Spooky Action is the 2nd result. Let’s change that, and make Spooky Action #1!

Muhammed Emoticons and Smileys (Yahoo’s Bans the letters "Allah")

Yahoo!Mail bans Allah and Dirty Harry Handles,” by John Oates, The Register, 20 February 2006, http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/02/20/yahoo_upsets_religious/ (from Slashdot).

2nd Russian Paper Shut in Cartoon Furor,” by Steven Myers, New York Times, 21 February 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/glogin?URI=http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/21/international/europe/21russia.html&OQ=_rQ3D1&OP=3434b636Q2FQ3BjvyQ3Ba@4ge@@bQ2BQ3BQ2B22JQ3B2Q2BQ3BQ2B!Q3BQ5EQ5BbveQ5BRbQ5E@Q5BRmQ3Bv1e@VvQ3BQ2B!e1ggQ5ERiQ24bdm.

Yahoo has joined the dhimmis and refuses to allow screen-names with “allah” in them. tdaxp‘s dream of having a screen-name that references the death threats I’ve received from Islamic militants thus ends:

As Howard Dean says, “Inshallah” — banned by Yahoo!

So tdaxp, must respond!

Not only are other phrases with “allah’ banned

Worshippers of Allah Threatened My Life — banned by Yahoo!
Syrian Catholics Worship Allah Too — banned by Yahoo!

So are proper names — enraging even more partially-Irish-descendant tdaxp

Mickey O’Callahan — banned by Yahoo!

(Of course, other references to the Diety are allowed by Yahoo

Jesus Christ God Jehova — (not) banned by Yahoo!


Meanwhile, anti-speech extremism spreads to Russia, where Vladimir Putin is arrested journalists who print the Mohammed cartoons

The owner, Mikhail M. Smirnov, said he decided on his own to close the newspaper on Friday, even as the prosecutor general’s office announced it would bring criminal charges against the paper’s editor, Anna V. Smirnova.
Ms. Smirnova, who is also the owner’s wife, faced charges of inciting religious animosity, a crime punishable by a maximum sentence of two to four years in prison

The actions of Yahoo and the Russians are much worse than Google’s restricted entry into China. While google.cn censuring its results opens the door to Chinese readers a little, the likes of Yahoo and Russia are attacking away from those who formerly had it.

How should one respond?

In that spirit…

Mohammed Emoticons

Muhammad (((:~{>

Muhammad playing Little Orphan Annie

Muhammad as a pirate

Muhammad on a bad turban day

Muhammad with sand in his eye

Muhammad wearing sunglasses

Muhammad giving the raspberry.

Giving Muhammad the raspberry.

Muhammad with a bomb in his turban:

Mohammed on a *really* bad turban day.

Muhammad sees a Danish cartoonist

Muhammad turns Christian

Muhammad imitates Charles Manson

Muhammad wears his Johnny Carson “Great Carsoni” turban

Muhammad after going quail hunting with Dick Cheney

Saudi Arabian/oil sheik version of Muhammad

Muhammad wearing his personalized designer turban

Muhammad wearing his “elevator” turban

Osama bin Laden dressed up as Muhammad on Halloween

Osama bin Laden dressed up as Muhammad on Halloween with an improvised explosive
device in his turban

Muhammad is not pleased with Muhammad emoticons

Miss Asia 2004 and Dysfunctional Yahoo! Networks

Miss Asia 2004 beauty contest concludes in HK,” People’s Daily Online, 26 October 2004, http://english.people.com.cn/200410/26/eng20041026_161607.html.

Yahoo actually does acquire Flickr,” by Caterina Fake, FlickrBlog, 20 March 2005, http://blog.flickr.com/flickrblog/2005/03/yahoo_actually_.html.

“Fwd: Fw: Miss asia,” by Janson Yew, 31 May 2005, private email.

Lu Jingjing
Miss Asia 2004 Lu Jingjing

I was going to type something humorous, like – Type Political/Network Theory of Beauty Here –, but my troubles actually give me a good excuse.

One of my backlogged emails was from my friend Janson of the beautiful Misses Lu Jingjing, Shine Wong, and Queenie Fong. I received these at my yahoo account. Now, as Yahoo owns Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Photos, and Flickr, it should be easy to swap them over, no? Wrong. It is easy to move from Yahoo Mail to Yahoo Photos, but YP is a dead end. Not only can’t you transfer them to [Yahoo] Flickr, you can’t even download the originals!

Instead, I had to download from Yahoo Mail to my computer and upload from my PC to Flickr. Visually


My computer was an interim step in the process, when it should have just been controlling an intra-Yahoo process


Actually, if I would have emailed my Yahoo mail to a Flickr email, I could have done this. But the option is never mentioned in Yahoo Mail and hidden on Flickr.

For that matter, if it was very well designed the stages would be invisible to me — Yahoo would “just work”


Ironically, the photos on this page are all from the People’s Daily story.

Three Winners
Winner Lu Jingjing,
Runner-Up Shine Wong,
3rd Place Winner Queenie Fong