There has been a lot of recent discussion the past few days about John Battelle’s post Thinking About Google and The Turning Point.
I thought Michael Arrington at TechCrunh brought up something interesting when he pointed out that he’s now making Yahoo Maps and Yahoo’s webmail is primary apps while Google continues to seem confused about their product direction.
To me the crack in Google’s armor that Yahoo could attack is their publisher base with Adsense. Google still makes the majority of their revenues from Adwords/Adsense. In order for Yahoo to get more of that market, they need more advertisers using Yahoo Search (Overture), more searches on Yahoo Search, and more publishers running the Yahoo Publisher Network which is still in beta.
I think they’ve been trying to compete on the search front to get more searches for a long time, and I’m not convinced they’re going to surpass Google there any time soon, thus leaving more advertisers in Yahoo Search and more publishers running YPN.
Personally, I hate using Yahoo Search (overture). The interface is much harder to use than Adwords, and is a pain to manage large amounts of keywords. Fix that, and I’d spend more money with it immediately.
With YPN, obviously still being in beta makes it hard to grow too much, but they need to attack where Adsense is weak. Make the revenue share public, add some transparency, provide good service, do some of the things Google won’t do and you’ll get publishers switching very fast.
Yahoo is adding RSS feeds to their new web mail application, making it the first major web mail application to have built-in RSS.
Publishers will also have the option of having a button to allow people to add their feed to the user’s Yahoo RSS mail folder.
This is big because it’s introducing RSS in a familiar format (email) to a huge group of uneducated users. For a couple of years now people have complained that RSS will only work for technology people, but I think it’s coming to the masses. Get your feeds ready.
There has been talk about how Google and Yahoo are now competing with venture capitalists by buying up small startups before they get VC money and establish their businesses.
For Google and Yahoo, it’s probably smart if they identify that the technology and talent of the companies they are acquiring are worth it. They get to buy them before they have a lot of investors who need a return on investment, and they get to buy them before they’ve established a big market and deserve a higher payout.
Is this good for the companies? Yes and no. It’s good because they are assured of making some good money, and they have a good chance their technology will get rolled out to a large user base by Google or Yahoo.
However, are they missing out on making a bigger payday? Are they missing out on their product catching fire and making their own company even bigger, more successful, and more powerful? And, if they are entrepreneurs, do they really want to work for a large company?
And perhaps the most important question, is this better or worse for the web as a whole? Is it good that these technologies are getting to use the resources, expertise, and user base of a Google? Or would we be seeing greater innovations if they stayed independent?
Food for thought, it’s tempting to say that independence is better for the web as a whole, but I’m not sure if I was a startup founder if I could turn down a nice acquisition from a large player 6 months into my companies existence either.
Dana Blankenhorn points to an AP story about AOL-owned Mapquest, and he comments on how it’s showing weakness.
Mapquest had a multi-year head start on Google Maps and Yahoo Maps, yet it’s massively losing marketshare to Google and Yahoo.
Blankenhorn’s reasoning is correct, Mapquest decided on it’s own satellite imagery wasn’t useful enough, they don’t open their source code to application developers, and they have other closed methods which classify them of a typical Web 1.0 company.
Google and Yahoo have let the users decide what is useful, they’ve opened up their source code and created APIs so that developers could make sites and applications using their technology. These “Web 2.0″ strategies and technologies have allowed them to rapidly gain and pass Mapquest, and I think it’s probably clear that eventually Mapquest will just be gone.
What are the lessons here?
1. Open things up.
2. Use your userbase to figure out what they want, not necessarily what they think you want.
4. Google and Yahoo have transformed from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 companies, and Microsoft is coming as well. Those three are poised to dominate, and continue to fight it out.
J Wynia from the Web 2.0 Workgroup has used OPML to create a dynamic “best of” list for the Web 2.0 Workgroup blogs. See his full detailed explanation here.
It’s a simple but powerful use of OPML and a search engine to gauge popularity, if not a real-time method of gauging it.
There are going to be some amazing things done with data and feeds, this is just one of those uses.
How could this be extended?
One idea that immediately hits me is that a lot of people get overwhelmed with the amount of RSS feeds they subscribe to, and there is simply too much to read. Personally, I subscribe to over 100 feeds, so there is often an overwhelming amount of posts if I don’t keep up with my feed reading.
I’d love if my feedreader had this ability to quickly see the top one or two feed items from every feed I subscribe to. How handy would that be?