Money cannot buy you love

by coelomic

I usually am not partial to search engine brouhahas, but after reading dsandler.org I must say that I have come to a conclusion of my own about the competition between Yahoo and Google, if there is one that is.

A lot has been read into Yahoo’s aquisition of the darlings of Web 2.0 ( yes I had to use the word ), namely del.icio.us and Flickr. I for one cannot see why Yahoo even bothered.
Lets take a look at the services that have been aquired, Delicious, started by Joshua Schachter, is an online bookmark manager that started the tagging craze. Flickr is a straightforward photo-sharing application with some tagging goodness. Note, something of a craze with internet users is the obssession with tagging. Nothing is spared, be it site, news, link, mail, tune or movie, are all branded with delightful little words that are supposed to make them easier to find, categorise or whatever. Many a person spend a disproportionate amount of time tagging, and far too little time looking through their tags, and digesting their content. To what purpose this hoarding serves, I dont know. Tagging away as if ones life depended on it. Most people tag for their own selfish gains with the so called Folksonomy emerging from the collective effort. Whatever, lets credit Yahoo with popularising a new concept by their aquisition of these companies.

What I cannot fathom is whether the folks at Yahoo really did give it a thought before plonking some serious cash for these two colourful companies. Well, just before you tag this article as “confusing”, let me hasten to add that I read a great piece at this site, I quote:

So, back to our question. Why buy now? Is it the data?
Probably not; you can scrape links and tags off of del.icio.us for
free, if you really want it. Digg, too. Besides, Yahoo’s already
(ostensibly) spidering the web all the time, so presumably they’ve
already got all this data anyway (although there was recently a bit of
a surprise when they appeared to concede the search war to Google in an interview). Is it the employees? Possibly, but no matter how awesome Schachter is, it’s hard to believe he’s worth 30 megabucks on his own. I don’t know how many employees Digg staffs at the moment; clearly there are a few,
so maybe these guys are all worth hiring. But Y! could probably hire
some or all of them away with solid salaries short of a full
acquisition.

I think I know what Yahoo! really wants to buy. Not raw data, not employees, but users. Yahoo! wants Digg’s user base. And Delicious’, and Flickr’s, both of which it already has. These are the Web’s power users, the creators of information:
these people generate blog posts and photos; they find the best links;
they tag and classify all that content; and then they write thoughtful
(or infantile) comments on social bookmarking pages about it all. And
soon (whether or not Digg is the site Y! chooses to acquire), in time all of that will be under the bright purple Yahoo! umbrella.

He makes a convincing argument that Yahoo is doing all this for the user base. Well Yahoo may have all the opinion makers and on the edge bloggers but by the looks of it Yahoo may have overestimated the loyalty of this particular breed of internet users, namely the early adopters.

Gone are the days when we had only a few decent websites that offered an online social life and meeting place.That was the case of AOL, in its heydays was a portal that offered it all and is still trying to do so!. The explosion of websites and services that is happening today means that the next cool idea or the great service may not be a part of the established portals such as Yahoo, but will be created by small independent developers such as Joshua Schachter. Exclusive user bases are a thing of the past.

Just because the userbase loves these services and now Yahoo has aquired them doesn’t mean that they will remain loyal to Yahoo. Heavyhandedness in any shape or form will not be tolerated. Presumably Yahoo aquired these companies so that they have a decent number of people using these services assosciated with the Yahoo name and that means more advertising revenue, with the hope that some of them will be curious enough to try out Yahoo’s other services. But the very nature of the crowd using these services are quite internet savvy and are in a position to search and find better services for themselves. No recommendations needed, thank you!

Google on the other hand has not bothered with the tags. That maybe because they are eating Yahoo’s lunch!. The Web’s power users, the creators of information who generate blog posts and photos; find the best links; tag and classify all that content; and then write thoughtful comments on social bookmarking pages and now increasingly find themselves under a purple umbrella, find that all their work is also indexed by Google! The user base is not exclusive to Yahoo nor is their content. Yahoo paid for this user base who generate content that can be just as easily found by users with Google. Was it really worth it?

What Yahoo has to really do is to give users opportunities to create and explore, thus hooking them and creating a loyal userbase who love Yahoo not because they bought Flickr but because they created a hundred services that better Flickr. Afterall money cannot buy you love.

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