As I scoured the Internet this morning for headlines, I came across at least a dozen headlines telling me that Yahoo! is not a search company (and never was). Of course, all the news stories and blogger taunts were about Carol Bartz’s statement about Yahoo! never being a search company. Everyone seems to think that’s what Yahoo! should be. After all, isn’t that where the money is?
I’m going to take the road less traveled by and say that Yahoo! isn’t a search company. Never was. And shouldn’t be. I’m on Yahoo!s side on this one. Even if their stock is down right now.
You see, it’s like this. Search was never Yahoo!s core business. They didn’t try to make it be. The provided their users with a search box because they didn’t want people on Yahoo! to play Pokemon to leave when they wanted to make a search. So Yahoo! never really put the energy into improving its search the same way that Google did. That’s why they never got the share of the market that Google got. Mistake? Sure. But maybe not.
In 1998, who would have known that the way we search the Internet today was going to be the direction of the Internet culture? Who knew? Perhaps Sergey Brin and Larry Page knew. But no one else knew. Not even Yahoo! If Yahoo! had known then they’d have probably bought Brin’s and Page’s technology when it was offered to them. But that’s a different story.
The fact is, Yahoo! never intended to be a search company. Even when it purchased Inktomi in 2002 – that’s when Yahoo! officially became a search engine as opposed to a directory like it was in 1995 – Yahoo! still put more energy into its core business assets – online games and entertainment. Today, that’s still what most people go to Yahoo! for.
So what’s the lesson? For Yahoo! and for you, the most important thing is to focus on your core business. Search was never Yahoo!s core business. Yahoo! is doing the right thing to get out of it even though they were and still are a search engine. And if you find yourself branching out into areas that are not your core business, think again. Do what you do best.