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Yahoo Edges Away From Portal Towards Platform, Finally

Oct. 31, 2007 9:18 AM ETAltaba, Inc. (AABA)2 Comments
Jeff Jarvis profile picture
Jeff Jarvis

Tuesday night, I got to crash a snazzy dinner thrown by Yahoo (YHOO) to talk about social media with London geekmedia. I came away wondering whether we will start to see a new Yahoo.

Two of their executives engaged in what I argued was continuing portal speak. “Yahoo’s where the activities are,” said one, who talked about “properties.” Another bragged about owning consumers because they do their email there and talked about Yahoo’s continuing “aspiration to be the starting point for consumers and advertisers.” That is the definition of a portal.

But then John Linwood, a VP of engineering, talked about opening up Yahoo as a platform. The other day, Yahoo boss Jerry Yang talked about this, too, but I was concerned that he was still looking at this as a media and portal model, trying still to get people to come to Yahoo rather than following Google’s (GOOG) open and distributed model. But Linwood said that, indeed, they plan to provide tools and content that developers can use to build new businesses away from Yahoo. Then he also talked about putting controls on that.

BBC tech correspondent Rory Celland-Jones asked pointedly whether Yahoo knows it has missed out and it is just slapping the social label on its rhetoric to try to catch up. One of the Yahoo execs tried to insist that the internet is still “at a very early stage” (read: Google has not won yet, he wishes).

I think what we witnessed Tuesday night was the debate the company is having within: portal or platform? Even if platform has won at the top, we need to hear stronger confirmation of that and see strong action and the question remains whether it’s possible to change Yahoo’s culture to make the shift. It’s already big and old. But it’s not too late to

This article was written by

Jeff Jarvis profile picture
Jeff Jarvis blogs about media and news at Buzzmachine.com (http://Buzzmachine.com). He is associate professor and director of the interactive journalism program at the City University of New York’s new Graduate School of Journalism (http://journalism.cuny.edu/). He is consulting editor of Daylife, a news startup. He writes a new media column for The Guardian. He consults for media companies. Until 2005, he was president and creative director of Advance.net, the online arm of Advance Publications. Prior to that, Jarvis was creator and founding editor of Entertainment Weekly; Sunday editor and associate publisher of the New York Daily News; TV critic for TV Guide and People; a columnist on the San Francisco Examiner; assistant city editor and reporter for the Chicago Tribune; reporter for Chicago Today. He says he is at work on a book.

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Comments (2)

04 Nov. 2007
Yahoo has something that Google doesn't - a great portal. It is a place where your sister or mother or grandmother go when the "go" on the Internet. I know for a fact that there are also several platform initiatives underway at Yahoo.

The way for Yahoo to compete is to not play the game the way the competitors play. Instead it should invent its own game where the rules favor it.

In other words, Yahoo should not copy Google blindly. With billions of dollars to play with, Google will attempt to do a lot of things. It will only be successful in a few. Yahoo shouldn't even attempt to do what Google does. Instead it should build on its strengths - great portal, great business partnerships, great user base and trust, great brand name etc.
Yahoo! needs to improve its portal (already much better than it was just a few months ago) and also develop platform. This is exactly what Google is doing with the GPhone (or at least the software for the phone). Yahoo!'s Directors are pretty creative and experienced, hopefully they will come up with something soon www.newsvisual.com/new...
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