Hero Essay Yahoo Answers

And when you consider how much competition there was for programmers when they were hiring, during the Bubble, it's not surprising that the quality of their programmers was uneven.In technology, once you have bad programmers, you're doomed.

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August 2010When I went to work for Yahoo after they bought our startup in 1998, it felt like the center of the world. It was supposed to be what Google turned out to be. The problems that hosed Yahoo go back a long time, practically to the beginning of the company.

They were already very visible when I got there in 1998.

The cubicles were full of programmers writing code, product managers thinking about feature lists and ship dates, support people (yes, there were actually support people) telling users to restart their browsers, and so on, just like a software company. One reason was the way they made money: by selling ads. If anyone at Yahoo considered the idea that they should be a technology company, the next thought would have been that Microsoft would crush them.

In 1995 it was hard to imagine a technology company making money that way. It's hard for anyone much younger than me to understand the fear Microsoft still inspired in 1995.

Advertisers were willing to pay ridiculous amounts for banner ads.

So Yahoo's sales force had evolved to exploit this source of revenue.Yahoo had two problems Google didn't: easy money, and ambivalence about being a technology company.Money The first time I met Jerry Yang, we thought we were meeting for different reasons.Led by a large and terrifyingly formidable man called Anil Singh, Yahoo's sales guys would fly out to Procter & Gamble and come back with million dollar orders for banner ad impressions.The prices seemed cheap compared to print, which was what advertisers, for lack of any other reference, compared them to.But they were expensive compared to what they were worth. This was why they were trying to get people to start calling them "portals" instead of "search engines." Despite the actual meaning of the word portal, what they meant by it was a site where users would find what they wanted on the site itself, instead of just passing through on their way to other destinations, as they did at a search engine.So these big, dumb companies were a dangerous source of revenue to depend on. I remember telling David Filo in late 1998 or early 1999 that Yahoo should buy Google, because I and most of the other programmers in the company were using it instead of Yahoo for search. Search was only 6% of our traffic, and we were growing at 10% a month. I didn't say "But search traffic is worth more than other traffic!That's why Yahoo as a company has never had a sharply defined identity.The worst consequence of trying to be a media company was that they didn't take programming seriously enough.But there was another source even more dangerous: other Internet startups. " I said "Oh, ok." Because I didn't realize either how much search traffic was worth. If they had, Google presumably wouldn't have expended any effort on enterprise search.By 1998, Yahoo was the beneficiary of a de facto Ponzi scheme. One reason they were excited was Yahoo's revenue growth. The startups then used the money to buy ads on Yahoo to get traffic. If circumstances had been different, the people running Yahoo might have realized sooner how important search was.


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