MS + Yahoo = We are Doomed

My own personal experience with Yahoo is a tale of woe.


Years ago, I co-moderated what was then the most heavily used Internet discussion forum on Human Evolution and related topics (which has since evolved into PalAnth. That group was on Yahoo. The three or four of us (depending on when) who moderated the group found ourselves, one day, with no superadmin account. The superadmin was a login that allowed important changes to be made, such as adding other moderators or admins, and so on. For some reason or another, the superadmin account had gone away, and we lost the ability to make fundamental and important changes. This would be OK for a while, but eventually we would have to have superadmin privileges. So, we contacted Yahoo’s tech people to see what we could do.

We didn’t hear back from them.

So, we contacted them again, and tried other ways to contact them, and got other people to try to contact them, and so on and so forth. For nearly one year we tried and tried and tried to get anyone to give us any response from Yahoo.

But they would not help us. Eventually, we simply closed down the forum. That forum was not only the number one Human Evolution discussion group on the planet at the time, but it was fairly active and stood up well in numerical comparison to Yahoo groups in general. Putting it simply, there are a number of reasons that we should not have been ignored.

That is my own personal story as to why I don’t do Yahoo. It is not my only story. I have found Yahoo to be ineffective or unresponsive or just plain bad at what they do over and over again, and I’m sure you are aware of their highly questionable corporate practices.

And now, Yahoo is going into a ten year deal with Microsoft to produce a new search facility, to compete with Google.

I hope MS-Yahoo gives Google a run for their money, because competition is good (within limits). Google has been doing quite well without much real competition, because, I think, they’ve understood that the competition is out there and that it is only a matter of time before someone does what Google itself did … come out of nowhere and take over the world. Obviously, the Microsoft-Yahoo deal is not the same thing as coming out of nowhere, and in fact, it is almost certainly doomed to fail. But before it fails, I hope it serves a small purpose.

But then, I do hope it goes away, because I don’t want to have to deal with other people who are using the service. It is mildly annoying to hear people always saying “oh, just Google that” … I certainly don’t want to hear people saying “Oh, let’s yahoo that.” I would have to slap people upside the head.

Comments

  1. #1 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    July 29, 2009

    So far, Bing (the search engine, not my kid,) has been unimpressive and Yahoo irritating as far as producing relevant search results. I am not sure if the two of them together will be worse, or better.

  2. #2 Stephanie Z
    July 29, 2009

    More importantly, how can you trust a company at which none of the decision-makers have read their Swift? Or worse, at which they have?

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    July 29, 2009

    That name has always bothered me. I mean, WTF? Even if you don’t know Swift, would you not know Yahoo as an insult? I’m sure the Google people have read Swift.

  4. #4 Jason Thibeault
    July 29, 2009

    Yahoo was my search engine of choice before Google hit the scene, but its name absolutely does sound like an insult rather than an exclamation of joy. That they didn’t realize it would be taken that way is absurd. That their search engine was, and is, so inferior as to be completely blown away by Google’s algorithms is heartening in the face of any Microsoft / Yahoo tagteam.

    While I don’t doubt that it’s possible there’s a better way to search than the Google way, I DO doubt that Microsoft / Yahoo can come up with it. At the moment, Bing is benefiting from the Microsoft advertising machine, but that has indications of dying off. And that, friends, is Microsoft’s core competency — marketing.

  5. #5 Enoch
    July 29, 2009

    I will go with the engine that allows use of extended regular expressions.

  6. #6 Spiv
    July 29, 2009

    There is one, major advantage here. There’s a reason one of the worst browsers is one of the most popular: It comes on every windows loaded computer (except for in GB now, right?) and most people are dumb, lazy, and a disappointing combination of the two.

    In other words, all they have to do to gain massive popularity is to set it as the default home page. That’s not to say it will win out, but it does give substantiation to the prospect of the crappier winning out on something other than its virtues. You can guarantee the moment they have market share support will be worse than ever.

    Admittedly they seem to be tipping on the browser battle at the moment too. Which is a good thing. Just in the last year they’ve gone from ~55% to ~40% coverage if the numbers are to be believed.

  7. #7 Doridoidae
    July 29, 2009

    a Yahoo/ MS merger is no threat. They’ve been trying to arrange it for years for a number of their services, and it never came to anything.

    Yahoo is scrambling to find anything that works. They’ve closed up their photos, briefcase (online storage) and social networking site. They’ve been trying to integrate a new profile system that has the benefits of most of those services, and failed utterly. They’ve taken over MyBlogLog with very poor results.

    It’s a desperate play by a company who couldn’t evolve.

  8. #8 jj
    July 29, 2009

    Yahoo was my search engine of choice before Google

    Pre-Google,I always thought Altavista had the most relevant results. Infoseek, excite and Lycos were the one’s I used if Altavista couldn’t do the trick, and if we wanna go way back, WebCrawler

  9. #9 marilove
    July 29, 2009

    Considering even my almost 80 year old grandmother knows what I’m talking about when I say, “I’ll just google that!” I SERIOUSLY doubt Google is going to have much trouble if Yahoo/Microsoft do this.

    I use gmail, google docs, their search engine, google maps (on my cell phone, too!), among other google services, as does almost every single person I know. Almost everyone I know uses gmail.

    Yahoo/Microsoft are trying sooo hard, but it’ll never work.

  10. #10 jj
    July 29, 2009

    Hm, didn’t realize that by 1996 Altavista was providing the search for Yahoo! until 2004 (by then it was owned by Yahoo)

  11. #11 Jason Thibeault
    July 29, 2009

    JJ — I had a brief flirtation with Altavista, but mostly just used their Babelfish. Somehow Yahoo kept me coming back. I don’t even know if it was because their search engine was more relevant (which I strongly doubt), or because the side services offered were useful, or because I just had unearned brand loyalty, but it was my homepage for a good while.

    None of that mattered when Google took over. It still owns, at providing relevant results.

  12. #12 LightningRose
    July 29, 2009

    Doridoidae @#7,
    Yahoo photos was shutdown after they acquired Flickr, which is arguably the best photo website available today.

  13. #13 JJ
    July 29, 2009

    t comes on every windows loaded computer (except for in GB now, right?)

    Well, at first MS was planning on removing IE from all windows 7 copies going to the EU, due to litigation (not too sure if it was EU only but they were not being sued here in the states).
    http://gizmodo.com/5290032/microsoft-volunteers-ie-removal-from-windows-7-to-appease-eu
    But since this would cause problems for many, especially novice users (as there would be NO browser, and if this was you’re only computer, and you were unfamiliar with using FTP, you’d be screwed) so MS decided to give a “choice” between browsers (IE is still the default though)
    http://gizmodo.com/5322453/microsoft-gives-europeans-choice-of-browser-instead-of-none-by-default

  14. #14 jj
    July 29, 2009

    @Jason #11 – Babelfish was one of the best things to come from Altavista, especially back when it first came out (also I love the name, I always wanted one of those!) But as for yahoo, it looks like Yahoo was actually using Altavista as it’s search engine. (That is, once ti went to a search engine, started as a directory). So I guess they weren’t very different (just the interface)

  15. #15 Enoch
    July 29, 2009

    Alta Vista was the best and its search language is still better than google’s. The “near” function alone makes it very powerful.

  16. #16 lylebot
    July 29, 2009

    I have pretty close ties to Yahoo. I don’t use it as my search engine, but I have spent some time there (on a paid basis) and I have many friends working in their research labs and applied research labs.

    I’m sure you are aware of their highly questionable corporate practices.

    I am not. What do you mean?

    it looks like Yahoo was actually using Altavista as it’s search engine.

    Yahoo was using Google as its search engine from 2002 to 2004. Before that they were using Inktomi, which they bought in 2002 (and which became the core of their own search engine).

    That their search engine was, and is, so inferior as to be completely blown away by Google’s algorithms

    Do you have data to back this up, or is it just your anecdotal opinion? There are tried-and-true means of measuring search engine performance, and they generally suggest that while Google is indeed better, it doesn’t blow anyone else away.

    I will go with the engine that allows use of extended regular expressions.

    Pretty close to impossible on the amount of data they have. They’re not using grep…

    It’s a desperate play by a company who couldn’t evolve.

    I basically agree with this.

  17. #17 Greg Laden
    July 29, 2009

    Lylebot: First, I’d like to throw my bid in for at least some regular expression use, and it is not even close to impossible (Extended may be).

    Google is using Python, and this would be possible. I suspect that much of the stuff Google does with their data is done with regular expressions.

    But the main point: The issue with their corporate policy, do you not remember the Chinese Dissident issue? Yahoo unnecessarily handed information over to the Chinese government that led to the arrest and torture of several dissidents.

  18. #18 lylebot
    July 29, 2009

    Just wanted to add one more thing. Yahoo is a big supporter of its researchers and scientists publishing. You can go to the ACM Digital Library and search for papers published by Yahoo scientists, and while you won’t find one that explicitly describes how Yahoo’s engines work, you can probably piece together quite a bit by reading a few of them. Google hires Ph.D. computer scientists as engineers, essentially, and it “does not encourage publishing” (their words, told to me when I asked, and understood by me to mean “frowns on or actively discourages publishing”). Yahoo and Microsoft both have a much better track record than Google on publishing the science done there.