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Yahoo should focus on mobile, not the Web.

Stashed in: @marissamayer, Yelp!, Mobile Web!

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Farhad Manjoo writes:

Yahoo’s problem in recent years has been that it’s never been the best at anything. Rather than trying to define itself, the company has flitted from one new Web fad to another. First it was an online directory, then a search engine, then a portal, then a media company, then briefly a Web 2.0 social-networking juggernaut, then a social-powered media company—and for the last couple years, it’s been all of those things at once. Its fortunes waxed and waned with the ad market and the particular interests of its many leaders.

Yahoo never found an answer to the first question any company has to answer: Why do we exist? What problem are we trying to solve? If she wants to attract the tech world’s smartest people to Yahoo, Mayer first has to figure out what it should do.

Coming up with killer Web apps is not easy, and not a task that Mayer had much experience with at Google. Mayer’s most prominent role was as the czar of the firm’s user experience—for most of the company’s history, decisions regarding Google’s Web design flowed through her. In keeping with Google’s culture, she tried to synthesize her own sense of style—she’s a fan of bright Marimekko prints, and she once commissioned glass artist Dale Chihuly to build an enormous, vibrant sculpture for the ceiling of her San Francisco apartment—with Google’s reliance on data. Once, when her team couldn’t decide on which shade of blue to use, they decided to test users’ reactions to 41 different blues. This didn’t sit well with traditional-minded designers at the firm, and it suggests a level of cautiousness that one doesn’t associate with carefree innovation.

I agree that it's very hard coming up with killer Web apps.

In fact, I can only name seven killer Web apps of the last decade: Wikipedia, Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

Instead of thinking of a killer Web app, Yahoo should become a mobile app juggernaut. Its Sportacular app for iPhone and Android is amazing, InNow for iPad is promising, as is mobile browser Axis. This could be the cornerstone for a great acquisition strategy, too: buy Tweetbot, Paper, Path, Pinwheel, Evernote, Instapaper, Foursquare, Runkeeper, Pageonce, Wordlens, and/or a suite of mobile games, and you're off to a great start.

I believe a Yahoo app on every mobile device is a compelling vision.

Double down on mobile, Yahoo. That's the future.

Adam, Back in 2011 before Yahoo released their iPad News Reading product "Livestand", i had a chance to closely work with their engineering & dev team(california and china). Let me tell you, they were in such a big mess. Their product managers just dint knew what they are building. Infact, i know many engineers who were looking for other jobs while working on their Livestand project. When i ask them, do you see yourself using this product once it is out in public, and they were like.. r u kiding??

The culture of Yahoo needs to change to be more efficient and more innovative:

This will likely involve firing a lot of people and hiring & acquiring a lot of people.

Not easy. But possible.

I'm going to be a contrary here and say I think the mobile craze is largely bunk.... for one reason: there is only so much you can do on a phone sized screen. It's a natural fit for short data social-communication apps like SMS, Twitter or Instagram, or inherently mobile apps like maps, music, Yelp, or even payments (I pray for the day I can dump all my damn plastic!), or certain types of games, but there are so many more applications which really can't effectively translate into a screen that small: video (outside of short meme videos), anything which requires serious or extensive user input or data interaction or where the natural paradigm is a full page, or anything business-y, personal or otherwise.

I think the mobile craze will settle down to those subset of applications which are a natural fit for mobility and screen size limitations, and of course 'Tamagotchi' apps. But to scream "mobile! mobile! mobile!" is inherently corporate crypto-jingoist, silly, and doesn't respect natural application fit.

If Yahoo can do for news, finance, and entertainment what they've done for sports with Sportacular, they will be my go-to app to know what's going on in the world. Before Twitter.

The curation is so useful in an increasingly noisy world.

iPhone and Android need that. Customize it through My Yahoo and it's even better.

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