Bitter Grounds - espresso fueled ramblings

Monday, August 21, 2017

Well … this is an end of an era. Yahoo for all intents and purposes is gone. Truth be told, the Yahoo we all loved in the 90s disappeared a long time ago. Today it was swallowed up by telecom giant Verizon. This wasn’t much of a shock. Yahoo has been wooed for years, most notably by Microsoft with a $44bn offer in 2008. Yahoo turned the offer down, and shortly after, the worst stock market crash since the Great Depression hammered it’s bottom line into submission. Yahoo’s value fell to about half of what MS offered. Since then, Yahoo has been trying to plug up financial holes, desperately trying to breath life into it’s once respected brand. Over the last 8 years, things haven’t improved much and today the company accepted Verizon’s offer of $4.83bn. Stockholders are likely wistfully thinking back to the day when Yahoo was valued at $125 billion.

Tech experts expect Verizon to merge Yahoo with AOL. Yea, AOL is still around, who knew? Verizon previously splashed out over $4bn to acquire the former ISP giant. There was a day AOL was as ubiquitous as Yahoo. Then it became known more for bad customer service and spammers. I did a quick check while writing this article and discovered AOL is still in Canada and might be one of the last offering dialup access. I’m also surprised they are still flogging their incomprehensibly bad AOL Desktop software. Will this merger bring any lustre back to either? Not likely. The internet is an unforgiving playground – those who don’t innovate, die deaths of a thousand cuts. It sounds like Yahoo will be turned into a delivery portal for Verizon sponsored ads. Which, when you think about it, is pretty much what it is now, except for the Verizon focus.

I’m not going to get all misty eyed nostalgic over Yahoo’s demise. The company made a string of disastrous decisions that have damaged their reputation among users – to a fatal degree. Yahoo doesn’t supply it’s own search engine mechanism and hasn’t in years. In one of the great ironic twists of fate, Yahoo dumped it’s search engine and began using Bing shortly after the failed MS bid. Yahoo gave up the pretense it was tech oriented and relegated itself to a half-baked entertainment portal – delivering news, entertainment and email. Oh and ads… lots and lots of ads. So it’s not a huge leap in logic to think Verizon got all hot and bothered over an ad delivery mechanism for it’s AOL suite.

Yahoo was a victim of it’s own lack of attention. As far as email is concerned, it offers little when compared to Outlook (formerly Hotmail) and Gmail. Both competitors supply plenty of cloud storage as well as office oriented software built into their sites. If you need more storage, it’s cheap to purchase. Google and Microsoft have worked hard over the years to make it easy to merge their platforms into a work environment. It’s also a boon to people who have discarded their laptops in favour of tablets only. If you use a word processor or spreadsheet occasionally, why spend money on expensive software – just use your browser. This streamlined process make both Google and Outlook attractive. I think that’s part of the problem, Yahoo was late to the mobile data game and have struggled to catch up.

Another glaring issue is security and support. Yahoo has been pretty much a joke because of the numerous hacks over the years. Their tech support has long been AWOL. Try to contact anyone about an issue and you get nothing. All companies have security issues and are at risk of being hacked. I regularly tell my customers to take security seriously, do everything they can to stay secure and backup all their data. I’m also blunt about the fact that people, far smarter than I, are out there cracking security and they should be prepared. But I’ve spent more time with Yahoo issues than all the other programs out there. My usual advice to any customer who had a stand alone Yahoo account is to ditch it and go with Google or Outlook.

And the last big question – what about the other telecoms who have tied their email systems into Yahoo? Companies, like Rogers in Canada, use Yahoo for email delivery. How will that affect them? I’m sure this was thought out during merger talks, but it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. I’m hoping money is plunged into security issues and revamping the hideous cluttered page. At least I’m hoping. Given the industries complete indifference to users, I won’t hold my breath.

 

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“We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.”

 ― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

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