Failure To Innovate: Yahoo Loss Someone’s Gain

by Heather Rast |

Thursday we learned that once-vibrant Yahoo! has finalized plans to divest itself of “non-strategic” and “under performing, non-core” assets.  The services headed to the chopping block include AltaVista, MyBlogLog, Yahoo Buzz and the social bookmarking platform Delicious.

To suggest that Yahoo! is hurting is not exactly a news flash.  But there’s hurt and there’s decimation. The company started by David Filo and Jerry Yang in 1994 – once the darling of the web – has been, well, shellacked.  Since new leadership was introduced in Jan 2009, we’ve seen layoffs, the sale of assets and general turmoil.  The place is a mess.  Adding to the Pigpen-like gray cloud of chaos surrounding Yahoo! is the dubious decision to chop Delicious.

Image representing delicious as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

Why orphan a service like Delicious at a time when content creation, publication, distribution and curation are essential to the way we work and live, and destined to become more so?

What are the folks in charge over at Yahoo! thinking?  Any short term financial gain can’t possibly outweigh the long term potential for growth and innovation services like Delicious and Flickr offer.  A day rarely goes by when I’m not accessing the nearly 6,000 links I’ve tagged in search of a fact, a quote or a terrific resource.  Today, it was a recipe for scotcheroos, tomorrow it’ll be something to support the deck I’m building for an upcoming webinar.

It shouldn’t take a Ph.D to see where the potential lay for Delicious.  The service allows for private and public bookmarking at the item level.  Tagging is free-form and driven by a user’s own style, not some pre-determined categorization model.  There’s a group feature which allows multiple people to collaborate and share bookmarked resources – perfect for enterprise down to small businesses.  By subscribing to other users’ tag streams, you can further separate signal from noise.  Why sift through SERPs when you already know Kristina Halvorson is likely to tag the best stuff around on content strategy?  At its core, Delicious allows us to organize and segment information we find valuable and save it for future reference.  And on an endless number of topics, from personal to work related.

While I understand the necessity of streamlining Yahoo!, I don’t get why the Delicious service isn’t being reexamined for ways toYahoo! cannot innovateblaze a new trail.  What if Delicious cold relate users and tagged content to site analytics data or publish custom content feeds, or segment popular content outlets/creators in a way which could be used for marketing purposes?  Those things could be monetized.  I’m no tech scientist, but I know there’s untapped value to be found in Delicious.  Look at the cool-sounding CIThread service (h/t Paul Gillin) which learns curation behaviors from users and amps up their experience.  And I’m not even touching on the connection Delicious could help forge between brands and their user communities.  Does Yahoo! just not see it?  Can’t the company recognize a game-changer when they have one?

Delicious has been around long enough to have amassed a large, enthusiastic fan base.  At 126 bookmarks saved per minute (noted on the Delicious site at 1:20pm CST on Sat Dec 18), that’s about 181,440 per day.  In it’s current iteration, the service is a perfect tool for workshifters, content creators, the media and even your term-paper-writing kid, as evidenced by the amount of good stuff being saved (and I’m willing to bet that Saturday afternoons are generally slow, so that number is probably higher).

In this TechCrunch interview from May, Yahoo! CEO Carol Barts is reported as having said “Yahoo! is a company that is very strong in content.  We’re moving toward a web of one.”  And she went on to say in response to Michael Arrington’s question about whether Yahoo! was killing off any other web properties, “No, we’re focused now.”

Methinks Yahoo! focuses a bit like my grandma.  And they understand the role of content about as well, too.

Editor’s Note: Yahoo! has clarified they do not intend to completely discontinue Delicious, only to move or sell it off. Whether that means your bookmarks are safe or not is still unclear. We recommend backing up your data with a service like Backupify (former client) and perhaps switching your bookmarks to similar services like Diigo or Pinboard.

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About the Author

Heather Rast

Heather is Principal of a boutique Cedar Rapids digital marketing company. She develops brand positioning strategy and marketing communications plans to distinguish small businesses from the competition and attract their ideal customers. Her content planning, writing, and online community-building work helps larger businesses better serve their audiences with useful information that solves problems as it builds affinity for the brand.