4 min read

Soul and Role of Yahoo and Google

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!