Swaroop C H

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Soul and Role of Yahoo and Google

26 Jan 2005

After quite a while, I was reading again, Battelle's posts on Yahoo and Google and their role in media and technology . Its an interesting read.

It got me thinking on how the cultures of Yahoo and Google are so different, yet they are so similar in what they do - the media and technology fields. Its like this - Yahoo is a media-focused technology company. Google is a technology-focused media company. Heh. They are working in the same areas but looking at it from different angles. More precisely, Google creates technology and then wonders how to make money out of it. Yahoo creates technology but with a business plan already in mind. This is a huge difference and this is what stands out most in a comparison between them. The way I look at it, Google has more ways of doing interesting stuff and can do more innovation but with the caveat that it may not lead anywhere ; Yahoo has more stricter ways of developing something but has more chances of making it happen. In my view, I prefer the Yahoo way because its been there and survived. I find Google's business model scary to say the least. I hope I'm wrong about Google and I still think they're much smarter than me and have more things up their sleeve.

One example is how Google created the amazing Google Suggest but then what are they going to do with it? Another thing worth noting is that Google states that Google does search. And we do it really really well. but its clearing moving away from that position. After all, there is Blogger, Orkut, Picasa, Keyhole, Google Print and of course, GMail. That's clearly a wide range of stuff, but they don't work together much, if at all. Blogger works well. Orkut is good when it works but I get the 'bad bad server. no donut for you' page too many times. I haven't tried Picasa myself but I've heard great reviews about it. GMail is simply fantastic. What I am really wondering about is their future plans for all of these. Is Technology+Adwords simply enough? I tend to ignore most ads simply because they are USA-centric. If I don't click, Google doesn't get paid, yet I use their services. So how are they going to keep making money? (Of course, you could argue the same for Yahoo, but I'm coming to that...)

Another thing is Google gets to do more since most of their stuff are labeled 'beta' for prolonged times - they can change things at will and not get shouted at if anything is broken. However, this is exactly the same reason which makes me worry about relying on their services. This makes sense in the case of GMail and not Google. Call me paranoid but if I am waiting for an important reply from someone, I worry about using the beta GMail.

Yahoo, on the other hand, has a lot of stuff and many premium services. The key to Yahoo's amazing success is integration. Everything works well together, from Messenger to Mail, Addresses, Calendar, Greetings to Search and Groups and lots lots more. On the other hand, I don't even know half of the services that Yahoo provides! For example, did you know about the Yahoo Picks of the Day where Yahoo showcases an interesting website for each day? Also, did you know about the Yahoo! Message Boards ?

The downside to all this is that Yahoo has lots of stuff running and its very difficult to change it. It must have been really difficult to add RSS features to My Yahoo! and Yahoo Groups. The same is true in the case of the awesome GMail UI vs Yahoo Mail. I simply love the GMail UI and how the conversations, labels and filters work, its simply irresistable for me. Yahoo recently bought Oddpost and it looks like it will be upgrading its UI in the coming months. Also, its difficult to add cool new features to Yahoo products unless it makes business sense. This is a double-edged sword and a stumbling block ; but in the real world, thats how it is going to be.

Regarding the I-love-Yahoo and especially I-love-Google fanatics, I feel it is simply a matter of personal preference. I have noticed that when I use Yahoo Mail, I tend to use the Yahoo search engine and when I use GMail, I tend to use the Google search engine. I have no idea why I do that, but my guess is that since my eyes are adjusted to the UI, I tend to prefer the same UI - after all, GMail and Google Search have familiar UI and the same goes for Yahoo Mail and Yahoo Search. Also, Yahoo Search works pretty well most of the time for me even though I confess that I prefer Google search engine because Google gives slightly better results for 'techie stuff'.

Continuing the different-yet-similar tone, Google Video Search was launched (beta, of course) just as Yahoo Video Search was integrated to the front page. More details on this at the unofficial yahoo weblog and Battelle's Searchblog.

To sum it all up, Google is a swashbuckling cool guy who makes money through gambling on his coolness whereas Yahoo is a smart businessman who takes only calculated risks and is slow to change. Just to make it more complete, a friend once said: Microsoft was once a cool guy who's now trying to figure out how to handle middle age and the round tummy.

What I really ponder about is the direction that these companies will take in the next 2-3 years or even this year alone!

Comments

JD says:

Agreed.

I think we tend to rate and appreciate Google more than Yahoo because we are geeks. [I know it because I get pissed whenever I see Yahoo Toolbar instead of Google Toolbar installed on any user's machine, only because I think Google Toolbar is better] But I have seen that not so technically inclined people prefer Yahoo a lot. As you mentioned, successful integration of various offerings is the key. Once I am logged in, I can check my mail, visit groups, send greetings etc. I think Yahoo provides one of the best internet experience for the end user.

JD

Kiran Kumar says:

Nice article, thoughts

There some time back, I read an article it says one click per year per user of gmail is sufficient for its maintanace costs :-)

So adwords is sufficient, but ofcourse it can earn more with new inventions, creativity :-)

Aseem Asthana says:

Nice writeup. Eventually all companies, either technology oriented or not, have to find a way of making money. In other words there has to be a business plan. A lack of the same, and of course head rush, lead to the loud sound of the bubble bursting.

Sriram says:

I see Yahoo as a grown up Google - in a way, Y!'s origins are not that different from Google's origins. But I don't agree with Google Suggest as an example- they could easily put it in the homepage and everyone would benefit.As for the others - I think Google is going for 'information management' here. If you got it, they want to organize,search,store it for you.Orkut is a failure though.

Interesting post nonetheless..atleast to see a Y! engineer saying that Google's search engine is better :)

Swaroop C H says:

JD: Yes, you're right. Yahoo provides the best overall experience for an end user, **especially** a non-geek. For example, if my mom wanted to start using email, I would get her to use yahoo email first even though I personally prefer GMail because yahoo email is easy to understand for non-geeks.

For example, labels are not easily understood by newbies, this is evident by discussions on the [gmail-help group][].

[gmail-help group]: http://groups-beta.google.com/group/Gmail-Help-Discussion/browse_thread/thread/6305980291c2bfbf/57307d066a9d6efd?_done=%2Fgroup%2FGmail-Help-Discussion%2Fthreads%3Fstart%3D30%26order%3Drecent%26&_doneTitle=Back&&d#57307d066a9d6efd

Swaroop C H says:

Kiran: I find it hard to believe that, but if it is true, then good for the end user ;)

Swaroop C H says:

Sriram: I'm highly skeptical of seeing Google Suggest going mainstream. However, I'd like to see that happen.

Regarding, search engines, well I used to exclusively use Google before, but I read an article that Yahoo does well for non-geeks and so I thought 'Why not try it myself' and I have been using it quite often. The Firefox searchbar makes it trivial to switch search engines. Now, whenever I search for people or places or similar information, I use Yahoo Search - the Yahoo network plays an important role, For example, if I want to know more about Daniel Bedingfield, Yahoo Search also tells me there's a [Launch Page about him][], and I can even listen to his songs on that page!

[Launch Page about him]: http://launch.yahoo.com/ar-294352---Daniel-Bedingfield

When I am searching for techie stuff, Google is way better, it has more sense of 'thinking like a geek'. One advantage is that it indexes the Usenet archives through Google groups. That's a big plus.

Swaroop C H says:

Aseem: Yes, it reminds me of the dot com bust.

Pramod says:

hey..really nice post! Even Avinash and I end up discussing this issue ad nauseaum. I like Google for trying innovative ideas, whether or not they embrace it in the long run. Y! seems to wait for an idea to mature before they jump in.

Swaroop C H says:

Pramod: Thanks. And as always, you're bang on target :)

Anand Pillai says:

Nice article. Thought I will comment on a few things.

Like you said, Google is percieved as a 'technologically cool' company. In fact if you work at Google, you have to spend a certain
amount of time thinking up and working out creative projects of your own, which might never make it out of your computer's hard disk. However, the company encourages it since Gmail is one such innovation which took off from a Google engineer's creative project.

You also have to appreciate that Google is not holding back from tagging their product as beta. (The fact that it works way better than most beta software is another thing!). Some of the so-called 'software giants' on the other hand have been dumping alpha quality software on us as final releases and making money by providing a never ending stream of fixes and SPs. In fact, the famous company in Redmond has made it their business plan, haven't they :-) ?

I am not really bothered about how Google plans to make money from technologies such as Google suggest. The very fact that Google has such a technology available is enough to increase my mental rating of the company a few notches up. And I think that Google generates a good deal of revenue by ad words. It is not an insignificant market as you seem to suggest. I think the concept of adwords pioneered by Google is one of the smartest moves in the Internet software industry. I would prefer the unobtrusive ad words
on the pages I visit as opposed to huge flash ads which pop up right under my nose.

Google thinks differently. And that is what makes them the coolest technology company out there.

Premshree Pillai says:

As Anand mentioned, Adwords is no small thing -- it's is a billion dollar industry.

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