What I like about the new Yahoo! flickr and tumblr

The revived Yahoo! shines with a flickr of light

How one woman helped get that done.

marissa mayer caricatureIf you haven’t noticed, every since ex-Googler Marissa Mayer took up the reins as CEO of Yahoo! … the old purple bastion of human-interevened search in Silicon Valley has lifted itself up out of the grave which it once dug for itself.

In fact, Mayer has done such an outstanding job that she is now boss of the company that just last month, in July, 2013, Yahoo! saw its US search traffic top that of Google, for the first time in … well, since just about the first time that Google took first place.

So what has the new Yahoo! Chief done that has helped turn around the once dying dinosaur?

Well, I’m not going to bore you with all of the rumors and reports of internal changes, or the lavish expenses she afforded herself to build a childcare facility exclusively for her own offspring. Nope. I’m just going to focus on the three biggest changes that have rolled into town, or rather, into Yahoo! in the past year.

1) She bought tumblr. While this may not seem like anything that would help Yahoo! back to the top spot in U.S. web search, the fact is that tumblr is a fast growing service, still used mostly by teens and young adults. They are the prime demographic to target for early adoption and for social marketing. When something spreads on tumblr, it generally spreads elsewhere, too. Yes, it’s a big risk (in terms of capital) but the payoff is tremendous, if it can be actualized. And so far, so good (at least from an outside perspective).

2) She made flickr probably the coolest photo and video (and file) storage facility online. Every single flickr account now has a Terabyte (yes, that’s right, a terabyte) of free space. That’s one thousand Gigabytes. I’m not sure if you’re counting, but the last time I checked, Google accounts were in the 30 GB range, and that’s for old accounts with tons of content on them already. This makes flickr the uniquely positioned player to dominate the space of content farming.

3) She is turning Yahoo! Search into something more algorithmic, and less polluted by human interference. This one’s my favorite. When she was at Google, Ms. Mayer helped brand the extremely computer-based algorithms and SERPs of the GOOG as the most elegant way to give users what they were searching for.

However, if you’ve looked at Google over the last year, you will have noticed that their biases and other silly protocols are interfering more and more in what their search engine results pages display. In other words, Google is becoming less and less computational, and more and more based on the human bias of their editors and executives (nepotism is already in full swing there — just ask Page and Brinn, the two co-founders, who have allowed their friends and family’s websites to shoot straight to the top of their niches, without any apparent reason of actual authoritativeness).

Meanwhile, Yahoo!, which started out as a fully human directory, has started to show that it too can compete in the algorithm game, and the search results are becoming more and more bias-free, and based increasingly on science.

Oh yeah, and without adding it to the list, she upgraded the Yahoo! logo The first one I saw was on August 28. It was a simple Times looking font I saw last week looked almost accidental, only to be replaced with a kind of clean, futuristic runes font. It’s very retro … the one from last week was almost a rip-off of the old Google font. It kind of said “our logo doesn’t matter. You’re here to find what you’re looking for, regardless of the pretty face we put out front.” And now the new one seems to hark to ancient times … long before there was an Internet, or anything digital, for that matter, save for our index fingers. And now they’re rolling out (as a test?) a new logo every day in September. Here’s a sneak preview they posted on YouTube (a Google company):

So three cheers for Mayer, and may we all see a better Yahoo! grow, yay, even as hipsters and mainstream users turn away from the omnipresent and privacy-intruding Google.

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