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Yahoo! has a mission?!

I’ve been intrigued by the discussion, in the media, on blogs, and on mailing lists I’m on, about Microsoft’s move to acquire Yahoo! The initial reaction from most folks is a knee-jerk negative — folks basically don’t like Microsoft, and so they don’t like the idea of Microsoft acquiring Yahoo!.

Today’s SF Chronicle continues the story, and features this statement from Yahoo! CEO (and co-founder) Jerry Yang: “We can’t let any of the noise we’re hearing around this situation distract us from our core mission. It’s critical that we continue to focus on running our business, executing our strategy and delivering value to all of our users, advertisers and publishers.”

I would bet money that you could ask a sampling of Yahoo! employees what their core mission is, and you’d never get the same answer twice. This has long been a problem with Yahoo! Google, for example, has a pretty clear core mission: “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Whereas Yahoo!’s values are a mess of pabulum.

This is the thing that those of us who work in or near Silicon Valley, and who know folks at Yahoo! know: it’s a mess. It’s been a mess for years. It’s been drifting and directionless. It’s made moves that seem to only compete with itself. It’s spread itself too thin.

Pretty much the only savvy things Yahoo! has done in the past few years is acquire Flickr,, and Upcoming.

So, what I’ve realized, is that acquisition by Microsoft might actually be a very good thing. Say what you will about MSFT, but they’ve been around for awhile, and have a pretty stable, solid corporate culture. They know how to run a business. They’re even innovating in some interesting spaces (physical computing, social computing.) They might just be the tonic to shake Yahoo! of its ailments.

  1. Generally agree with you (as usual), especially on the directionless part (posted about it on my blog too).

    But I think we should not underestimate the cultural issues. I’ve worked with both companies, as you probably have, and they are really quite different cultures at both the executive and grass roots level. It would probably be at least as challenging as the HP/Compaq merger, which even today still has cultural artifacts some 7 years later. It will take a merged MiHoo a long time to realize the full benefits.

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