Last year I had a Yahoo account that was disabled because of a phisher. They wouldn’t restore it. Along with my Yahoo account I lost access to my Flickr page, my Upcoming, etc. Anything that was a Yahoo subsidiary. Yahoo is draconian in this way. If you violate the TOS on one of their sites, you’ve violated it on ALL of their sites. After contacting the Flickr administrators directly, however, they were willing to restore my account. Unfortunately you can’t even use Flickr without having a Yahoo.com account.
I don’t really like Yahoo. I don’t like the UI, I don’t like the customer service ‘culture’. There’s a million and one reasons why I don’t use it. Unfortunately they’ve made some really smart moves by acquiring some of the coolest up coming (no pun intended) web services. However, my experience with Yahoo highlights the main reason for my contempt and probably the main reason why Microsoft ’undervalues’ the company.
The problem is it’s become a company of satellite technologies that rarely complement and often compete with the core Yahoo! services. For instance, Yahoo bought the social book marking service del.icio.us back in 2005. Yet to this day Yahoo also offers bookmarks.yahoo.com which allows users to essentially do all of the same things. It took until 2007 for Yahoo to finally get a clue and shut down photos.yahoo.com which was in direct competition to Flickr.
There’s also an interesting trend that really just amounts to a lack of technology integration. For instance why can’t my Yahoo!Group also act as a community in MyBlogLog? Moreso, why can’t events that my Yahoo!Group is planning be reflected easily on Upcoming.org? Why spend 100 Million Dollars developing the news editorial site buzz.yahoo.com when it isn’t even used on the main yahoo.com home page? Why can’t my Jumpcut.com videos somehow be linked to my Flickr page? It’s because Yahoo, in spite of it self, has a history of acquiring web technologies and stiffing them. In the case of wretch.cc, the popular Taiwanese blog platform, a change in the Terms of Service sparked a mass exodus by users.
Most of the success stories like MyBlogLog, Upcoming, Flickr and Del.icio.us have survived simply because Yahoo has allowed them to prosper and grow with minimal involvement on their part. Microsoft faces similar hurdles. Close association with the big corporate brands equals backlash while looser association may spark some distrust but with minimal complaints.
Until Yahoo’s assets are integrated cohesively they’ll continue to be their own worst enemy with the usefulness of the ‘Yahoo experience’ being undermined by the separateness their individual acquisitions attempt to maintain.