A company that defined the word ‘Internet’, valued at $125 billion around 2000 to being sold at $4.83 billion by 2017 (1), it has been a fall and fall for Yahoo!.
It was the first thing to pop up on everyone’s browser. In fact, for the late millennial generation (born 1990-1995), Yahoo! was as household an item as Cartoon Network.
Yahoo! is going to be sold to Verizon, renamed Altaba and Marissa Mayer will soon step down as head honcho.
What went wrong after 2000?
Practically, everything went wrong. More like nothing went right for them.
Each and every product of theirs had stiff competition. And the competition simply overtook them.
Let us dissect each and every product it has/had on offer and its competitors after 2000.
Now this list of Yahoo! products can be found at their website homepage itself.
Yahoo! Product Competitor(s)
Mail Google, Hotmail/Outlook, Rediff
Search Google, MSN/Bing
News Websites of News Channels
Cricket CricInfo, CricketNext
Celebrity Websites of Zoom TV, MTV, VH1
Movies Websites of News Channels with Movie Reviews Section
Lifestyle Websites of News Channels with a Lifestyle Section
Flickr Instagram, Pinterest
Answers WikiAnswers, Quora
Messenger Facebook, GTalk, of late WhatsApp, Hike
Weather AccuWeather, weather.com
Taking the case of four important products, one by one, we get the points below.
Alexa Ranking is a ranking of websites based on their commercial web traffic data and analytics.
As of December 2016, the Alexa Rank of Yahoo! Mail, Google Mail and Outlook Mail stand as below.
Website Alexa Rank
Yahoo! Mail 111,651 (2)
Google Mail 8,154 (3)
Outlook Mail 5,891 (4)
Rediff Mail 5,917 (5)
Observe the stark difference in the ranking of Yahoo! Mail vis-a-vis its competitors.
It is 13.7 times less visited than GMAIL. Or GMAIL 13.7 times more visited than Yahoo! Mail, either way we like.
GMAIL’s ranking being lesser than Outlook or Rediff Mails can be attributed to a highly functional mobile app for all platforms thus rendering logging into a desktop website simply redundant.
That said, the same can be attributed to Yahoo! Mail having an app, but the layoff in terms of the numbers is too much even if a highly functional app is available.
These numbers are shocking for an e-mail service that used to be as common as having it as it is to have a residential address in early 2000s.
Demerits that lead to the downfall of Yahoo! Mail:
(a) Sluggishness – GMAIL has always been faster booting up and searching out. Personally, there have been many occasions wherein Yahoo! Mail just would not load, thereby causing much annoyance. No, it cannot be attributed to slow internet because I was on broadband connection and GMAIL worked just fine the same time.
(b) Interface – The interface and sorting of mails into various categories existed almost from the beginning on GMAIL. But, that was not the case with Yahoo! Mail. Categorising of mails arrived late on the scene, by which time GMAIL had already been established.
(c) Non-existent tie-ups with other websites – When we try logging into a news website, for example, we are provided with options to ‘sign in with Facebook‘ or ‘sign in with GMAIL‘, but never really ‘sign in with Yahoo!‘. This was one option they could have tied up with to get more people onto their service as a last-ditch effort in the last 2-3 years.
(d) Mail for business/work – We all use Outlook at work and have heard of GMAIL for work/business too. These two have catered to the personal and business consumer of today. But Yahoo! for work? Totally non-existent – lost another great opportunity to be back in line at least on the business front by rebuilding.
(d) Competitors faring well overall – GMAIL, Outlook Mail and Rediff Mail kept rising, GMAIL predominantly, adapting and changing constantly with the years and the generations. Today Outlook is not doing such a bad job either – it is a good second favourite after GMAIL for everybody.
The competitors are riding the bicycle. Yahoo! at one point was riding, of late got fatigued and never really regained its energy to start riding again.
We all know what happens if you don’t keep riding a bicycle and stay still. Eventually you will fall.
This is a no-brainer.
Google Search has jump leaps and bounds since its inception.
MSN/Bing is still behind Yahoo! Search so we compare just Google and Yahoo! here.
How Yahoo! Search lags Google Search from the eyes of a commoner:
(a) More Multi-lingual – Google Search is offered in many Indian regional languages, thus reaching a more diverse community of multi-hundred millions in India, and therefore a larger market in India. Yahoo!’s option for multi-lingual Indian search? Non-existent.
(b) I’m feeling lucky – This button takes us directly to the webpage of first search result – saves time and is creative. Yahoo!’s option for something such? Non-existent.
(c) Voice Search – Google has a voice search enabling users to search with the help of a microphone. Yahoo’s option for something such? Non-existent.
(d) Search Results –
Just type out ‘Internet’ in both Google Search and Yahoo! Search.
No. of results on Yahoo! – 2.54 billion
No. of results on Google – 3.71 billion
Now just type out Google in Google Search and Yahoo (results are same irrespective of including ! or not) in Yahoo! Search.
No. of results of Yahoo itself on Yahoo! – 762 million
No. of results on Google itself on Google – 11.36 billion
These are just 2 examples. But one can easily see the difference and it is only certain it flows out to all searches as well.
(e) Search Time – It took Google 0.84 seconds to provide search results 1st page for the word Google. A nice feature at the top of the screen. It is not very important, but a nice feature to look at nevertheless. Yahoo!’s answer to such a quirky feature? Non-existent.
These are some of the many aspects in which Google has overtaken and overpowered Yahoo in the search engine department. Ever since its inception in September, 1997, (6) over 2 years after Yahoo! Search’s inception in March, 1995, (7) Google has always been a step ahead and a second ahead of Yahoo!.
Google has Google Chrome.
Microsoft has Internet Explorer.
Yahoo! has, no, had Axis.
Yahoo! started a browser for Windows, called Axis. Initial reviews were good. But they shut shop in 2013, just a year after the launch.
Sadly even Wikipedia has nothing much to say about the browser.
Early bird always catches the worm.
Ah, the good old days of Yahoo! Messenger. I am a millenial and my teenage years were welcomed by Yahoo! Messenger. It was what was happening and everyone was hooked onto it after school for chats with their friends. Such a wonderful platform with amusing emojis. I still recall the famous emoji: “Groovy baby, it’s almost the weekend!” that I used to annoy my friends with on Fridays.
The purple hue of it and the orangish sign of seeing someone online and the excitement of chatting them up, priceless.
But then, Orkut happened. Gtalk happened. And then Facebook happened.
Orkut had come up, but still Yahoo! Messenger held its charm because there were no chat options in Orkut.
Later, GTalk was added to Orkut, which was not as varied as Messenger and had lesser options, so Yahoo! Messenger still held on.
Then Facebook came onto the stage with a robust combination of a profile and chat option, like a combo of Orkut and Yahoo! Messenger. And it swept Yahoo! Messenger and Orkut away.
Now with the advent of smartphones, WhatsApp takes precedence and Messenger simply is sidelined as an antique.
A humble, newly plated ornate gold chain always sells better than an old, bland and faded out 22 carat original.
Mail, Search Engine, Messenger and Browser.
These were the four pillars of Yahoo!’s identity. When the four pillars fall, the entire house obviously will fall down. And that is what has happened.
With the internet revolution, news channels started having their own websites online, and they became prime sources of news online. Yahoo! News then shrunk into a corner as a source of news just before one logged on to check their Yahoo! Mail.
Quora and WikiAnswers replaced Yahoo! Answers in a matter of a few years.
CricInfo and CricketNext sidelined Yahoo! Cricket.
Celebrity, Movie and Lifestyle sections of Yahoo! were overtaken by the corresponding sections of the news websites themselves.
Flickr is a wonderful platform – but sadly for Yahoo!, Instagram and Pinterest came around and took control of the scene.
In the end, Yahoo! is left as a confused adolescent – struggling against superior peer pressure to maintain its identity it once had.
It didn’t do anything wrong – just that it couldn’t keep up with the pace of changes and changes implemented were a month or two too late.
Renaming it to Altaba signals the end of a fantastic era in the Internet.
But one cannot discount it just yet. History is replete with businesses overturned after first time defeat. Maybe, it could reincarnate under the new name and gain a new identity, and be the item that defines the upcoming generations – much like how it defined the late millenials’ teenage years. Anything is possible.
We will all miss the purple that is Yahoo! – so many memories and a strong romance with it.
Until the rebirth and success, best to say: