Skip

Google’s Marissa Mayer Becomes Yahoo’s Chief
July 16, 2012 2:34 PM   Subscribe

Yahoo CEO: Tim Koogle, Terry Semel, Jerry Yang, Carol Bartz, Tim Morse, Scott Thompson, Ross Levinsohn, Google's Marissa Mayer. Maybe they got it right this time?
posted by NotMyselfRightNow (118 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great. Now Yahoo, too, can argue about shades of blue until they are utterly and totally irrelevant.
posted by littlerobothead at 2:36 PM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Could lolyahoo tag.
posted by brennen at 2:38 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is she going to fix Flickr? That's the only part of Yahoo that I even know exists without having to look it up. I keep a ton of pictures and videos there, and I would love it if Flickr could thrive.
posted by The World Famous at 2:38 PM on July 16, 2012 [27 favorites]


use, dammit
posted by brennen at 2:38 PM on July 16, 2012


Who was the one who swore a lot? I liked her.
posted by Artw at 2:39 PM on July 16, 2012


I have no idea how she's remotely qualified to lead a struggling company, but I don't really get the West Coast tech business.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:39 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hope for her that that particular sinking ship is lucrative.
posted by jaduncan at 2:40 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Offered without commentary: Evidence that Women Are Over-Represented in Precarious Leadership Positions (University of Exeter) & Women in Power Are Set Up to Fail (NYT).

(via @pomeranian99)
posted by flippant at 2:42 PM on July 16, 2012 [32 favorites]


littlerobothead: "Great. Now Yahoo, too, can argue about shades of blue until they are utterly and totally irrelevant."

Nonsense. Yahoo uses a Professional White Background.
posted by schmod at 2:42 PM on July 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


I would love it if Flickr could thrive.

I used Flickr quite a bit, and then one day a while back I realized that I had just... Stopped. And then it turned out that I used to jump over to Flickr when I noticed that one of my friends had uploaded something new there, and that hadn't happened in quite literally months.

I, too, would like to see it thrive, but it kind of feels like that ship has finally sailed off into the spreading miasma of, well, almost everything else Yahoo has been involved with for the last decade.
posted by brennen at 2:42 PM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


"She said Yahoo was “one of the best brands on the Internet.” That confuses me a bit...
posted by HuronBob at 2:42 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe she can sell it back to Google for scrap.
posted by Damienmce at 2:46 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


flippant: "Offered without commentary: Evidence that Women Are Over-Represented in Precarious Leadership Positions (University of Exeter) & Women in Power Are Set Up to Fail (NYT)."

Confession: I searched both of those articles to see if they referred to Carly Fiorina before I decided to take them seriously and read them all of the way through.
posted by schmod at 2:49 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


*pops popcorn, gets comfortable* (re: the news, not the thread)
posted by entropicamericana at 2:51 PM on July 16, 2012


Maybe she can sell it back to Google for scrap.
posted by Damienmce at 2:46 PM on July 16 [+] [!]


The Manchurian CEO?
posted by basicchannel at 2:52 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mayer doesn't really need the money. What she wants is a challenge, I imagine, having been basically at the top of her ladder at Google. Simply put, she wasn't going to get to be CEO of Google by staying at Google, especially after her last move.

On the plus side, Yahoo's executive appointments have been so turbulent, and its condition so bad, that unless she or Yahoo actually self-destructs I think it will be hard for her to be too badly damaged, either way. And if she can actually pull Yahoo around...

Flippant makes a very interesting point, however - the "glass cliff" is a weird phenomenon. It reminds me a little of sports coaching, where it seems like the teams which are in truly dire straits are the only ones which appoint outside a particular demographic.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:53 PM on July 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


The Manchurian CEO?

New phrase for that: The Elop.
posted by jaduncan at 2:54 PM on July 16, 2012 [14 favorites]


I, too, would like to see it thrive, but it kind of feels like that ship has finally sailed off into the spreading miasma of, well, almost everything else Yahoo has been involved with for the last decade.

Flickr has an appealing design but it is unnecessarily bloated and slow and suffers from some questionable interface decisions complained about elsewhere ad nauseam.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:54 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


She's already made more money than she'll ever need. Who *wouldn't* want to do a Slim Pickens and ride the bomb down while screaming "WOOOHOOO" and waving their hat?
posted by mrbill at 2:58 PM on July 16, 2012 [20 favorites]


Great. Now Yahoo, too, can argue about shades of blue until they are utterly and totally irrelevant.

Google hardly seems to be irrelevant, and some data-driven decisions might benefit Yahoo.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:59 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


She's already made more money than she'll ever need. Who *wouldn't* want to do a Slim Pickens and ride the bomb down while screaming "WOOOHOOO" and waving their hat?

Hey, now. There's already a Romney post that's still open. Let's not start it here.
posted by The World Famous at 3:01 PM on July 16, 2012 [18 favorites]


Great. Now Yahoo, too, can argue about shades of blue until they are utterly and totally irrelevant.

Pretty much what I came here to say. She's the reason Doug Bowman left Google for Twitter. (Am I the only one who remembers Doug Bowman?)
posted by Gator at 3:02 PM on July 16, 2012


Talk about trading down.
posted by webwench at 3:02 PM on July 16, 2012


Once you hit the iceberg, it doesn't matter who the Captain is except maybe to historians and a few survivors.
posted by tommasz at 3:09 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


She's the reason Doug Bowman left Google for Twitter. (Am I the only one who remembers Doug Bowman?)

Yeah, I remember that whole fiasco. And in long hindsight, Doug was being a bit of a douche. I understand why he was mad, because having an argument over 41 shades of blue or how wide a border should be what happens when you get really smart people who all think they know better in a room -- they're going to argue over the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin.

But there are two solutions for that problem: You can either back your beliefs up with hard data, or you can actually be a designer and demand resolution. Doug, I don't think, did either. He just sat there exasperated.

Mayer, honestly, is one of the few people in the tech world that could right Yahoo's ship. She's old school web, very smart, and savvy about how the web and tech firms work. Can she right Yahoo? Yes.

Will she? I have a hard time seeing how she can. Bing has cannibalized their search business, the IP they had got weaponized instead of used and reworked, Flickr got left to rot in the same way IE was, and the only thing that's really making them any money (other than dubious partnerships) is their fantasy sports sites, and even those aren't the powerhouse they used to be.

It's kinda surprising, then, that the board decided not to find the nearest coast to ground Yahoo and have the guy come out to break the ship. Or maybe it's not. Selling Yahoo right now would mean pocket change for investors. Maybe the hope is that Mayer could reignite Yahoo's image in the tech world and get the value back so they can flip it to MSFT/APPL/Alibaba/etc. But now she's working with a depleted workforce where even the superstars with essentially sinecure jobs (Douglas Crockford) have now left. She'd need to reattract great talent, and that's going to be hard given the hiring war going on.

Hiring Mayer is a huge coup for Yahoo. I'm not sure it makes that much of a difference to Yahoo in the long term, though.
posted by dw at 3:24 PM on July 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Whatever happens I hope that the little team that maintains Yahoo Pipes do well. It's such a great internet tool.
posted by merocet at 3:28 PM on July 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


First thought was: Good for Yahoo.

Second thought: Holy crap, she's only 37?

Third thought: How old was Jerry Yang when he founded the company? 27?
posted by gwint at 3:43 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Honestly, the only reason I knew that Yahoo still existed before today is that everyone I know who used to have a Yahoo Mail account lost it to spammers within the last 18 months or so.
posted by Etrigan at 3:43 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


My impression, based on nothing, is that having conquered Google but being out of favor as a CEO possibility, she is taking on the challenge of turning a troubled company around. Climb every mountain and so forth.

If I were in her position (lol) I'd think I'd prefer managing a startup or coming in to give gravitas to a fledgling facebook, but hey, you gotta give it up-- with this move (not to mention the fact that she's on the board at WalMart) she may be one of the most powerful women in the world. If she comes up with something even half as cool as the gmail chat box she just might pull it off. And she's only 2 years older than me. Fuck. Now I both hate and love her.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:45 PM on July 16, 2012


Yahoo's not a bad little company. All it needs is a little love.
posted by demiurge at 4:01 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've never liked that shade of purple.
posted by perhapses at 4:06 PM on July 16, 2012


[I know you know better, maybe take the "let's rag on everyone in the thread" to MetaTalk if we need to?]
posted by jessamyn at 4:08 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


This news has already made a big impact on YHOO's share price.
posted by mullingitover at 4:11 PM on July 16, 2012


I have no idea how she's remotely qualified to lead a struggling company, but I don't really get the West Coast tech business.
Though there's definitely a point to be made about the difficulty of judging executive qualifications in general, there's little need to doubt her qualifications in particular. The linked article says:
Ms. Mayer, 37, had for years been responsible for the look and feel of Google’s most popular products: the famously unadorned white search homepage, Gmail, Google News and Google Images. More recently, Ms. Mayer, an engineer by training whose first job at Google included computer programming, was put in charge of the company’s location and local services, including Google Maps, overseeing more than 1,000 product managers. She also sat on Google’s operating committee, part of a small circle of senior executives who had the ear of Google’s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
And she's incredibly well respected in the field. The top comment at Hacker News, which is probably the best barometer of the "West Coast tech business" these days, says:
Wow. I am speechless. There is probably no better person on earth to light a user- and product-focused fire under Yahoo. But the risk, the risk for her is just stunning. Huge props to her for making the leap from what must be a very comfortable Google and for the board for finding a stunning candidate to lead the revival of Yahoo.
(Edit: my definition of risk is lost time and missed opportunity. She's not going to suffer in compensation or reputation.)
So, qualifications: knows how to build crap, knows how to focus on the product, made the public-facing part of Google into Google, knows how a product gets traction, knows how to earn respect in a male-dominated field. Sounds like exactly what Yahoo needs.
posted by Llama-Lime at 4:16 PM on July 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


It will be interesting to see if the CEO bounce is offset by an earning call landing tomorrow.
posted by TwoWordReview at 4:17 PM on July 16, 2012


From the article:

"Ms. Mayer had for years been responsible for the look and feel of Google’s most popular products: the famously unadorned white search homepage, Gmail, Google News and Google Images."

All of which still look and behave kind of like a developer made them in their spare time. What exactly did her job entail? Did she wake up in the morning and say, "We need more whitespace on the home page people! Oh, and do something cute with the logo to make it look shittier." I fail to see how this is going to be a win for the struggling (but profitable!) Yahoo.

Yahoo, have you learned nothing from the success of Apple?
posted by quadog at 4:18 PM on July 16, 2012


There are a number of things that Yahoo does well, and in many cases they are things that Google, Facebook, and MSN do poorly or not at all (finance and autos, to name too). There is also a long list of portal-friendly content and ad services that have little competition and could surely use some. Finally, there is a huge opportunity for a tablet portal, to counterbalance the atomization of discreet apps -- who better to do it than the one portal that is agnostic to tablet OS and hardware (by virtue of having neither...)
posted by MattD at 4:22 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yahoo, have you learned nothing from the success of Apple?

This seems to overlook that Google's approach has also been wildly successful.

(Thats one of the interesting things to me, that arguably the top two tech companies right now have very different approaches, both successful. Yahoo's overall business model is more similar to Google's, though).
posted by wildcrdj at 4:23 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The iPhone also looks like something a developer created. It is a box with a huge screen and a button.
posted by humanfont at 4:26 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Ms. Mayer had for years been responsible for the look and feel of Google’s most popular products: the famously unadorned white search homepage, Gmail, Google News and Google Images."

As I recall, she was also responsible for "Google Local", which has been kind of a mess for the past couple of years. Businesses have been encouraged to sign up with Local, and then G+ came along, and businesses were encouraged to create a G+ business page. After that, it was determined that G+ business pages and Google Local pages would be combined, but good grief, what a mess.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:26 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, you're telling me that she's been directly involved with a series of products that have reshaped the way that me, everyone I know, and billions of others interact with the world around us.

Yes I would call that a pretty good resume.
posted by bicyclefish at 4:28 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


All of which still look and behave kind of like a developer made them in their spare time.

I want to say that as a UX designer this sort of thinking always pisses me off. So what if it's unadorned? So what if it looked "underbaked?" Is it USEFUL? Can people get stuff done by using it? Does the interface stay out of the way of the user so they can complete their task? Does it make the user happy and want to use it again?

Covering over an interface with six cans of Swoopy Curves And Wet Floors does not a good interface make, and I'm really, really tired of people thinking that something that looks like a graphic designer made it in their spare time makes a better interface than something as clean and simple as Google.

Argue all you want about some of Google's other silly ideas -- the 41 shades of blue, the Gmail redesign no one got -- but they nailed the idea of search. One input field, two buttons. Not the 100+ links Yahoo had.
posted by dw at 4:32 PM on July 16, 2012 [29 favorites]


Yeah, it's weird hearing people not know her by reputation: she's been one of the key people at Google and one of the most important people in Silicon Valley for a long time. This is a big deal, which is of course no guarantee that it will end well.

Most of the reaction I'm hearing is (rightly) concentrating on the possible effect at Yahoo -- the effect at Google will also be important.
posted by feckless at 4:32 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thinking about Yahoo! is strange for me.

Like other people here I started using it when it was still just a manually written, flat list of links on a computer in a closet somewhere run by a couple of college kids, and then as it grew a cataloged tree of links, and eventually this new idea about a thing called a search engine.

And then a just a few years later it was this huge, complicated thing involving webmail and being a portal, a proto-newspaper and publisher, and a just a few more years after that it it was many huge complicated things, an entire galaxy of different services and products.

And then just as it was all peaking it began to slowly fade away and crumble. Not really because it had done anything wrong - though it did - but mainly because Google came along and ate Yahoo!'s lunch - and then breakfast and dinner, too - and because technology was changing, .is changing and will continue to change.

There's a number of lessons here about things like scalability, complexity, growth and the continued support of legacy products, and how supporting those legacy products can completely prevent adapting to current or future technology and how it's used and how you can risk losing your users (sometimes very rapidly) on either side of that coin if you don't stay in the sweet spot.

If I could best sum what went wrong with Yahoo! is that they diversified and tried to be far too many things, to too many people and ended up being stuck in that role and spread far too thinly over too many customers - Yahoo!'s success at this was it's own undoing as it became resistant to change and unwilling to amputate dead weight from the company in pursuit of being that a mega-portal like AOL.

To really save Yahoo! from itself and give it long term viability you'd probably have to burn most of it to the ground and start from scratch with something smarter, more clever and more useful than Google.
posted by loquacious at 4:33 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


(She was also a key figure in the purchasing of Zagat by Google in 20011, and the integration of Zagat into Google Local. I think that will be felt by a lot of people taking receipt of Nexus 7s in the next couple of weeks.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:34 PM on July 16, 2012


what I used to feel whenever someone gave me their AOL email address is what I started feeling about Yahoo about 5 years ago
posted by danny the boy at 4:35 PM on July 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Google doesn't understand design as an organization, and simply can't do it. Mayer was, and will always be, an engineer. Which is great for building tech, but not great for building product.

I'd say their tech succeeds as much as it does despite all sorts of other design and strategic vision issues.

I mean, look at Gmail--up until the recent (insert your own adjective here) redesign, the only way to read a list of your unread messages was to type "is:unread" into the search box. And after the redesign, you have an option of switching to an inbox view that shows your unread messages in a separate area--which is not pageable. I guess if you need me to explain why this is a problem, you can go ahead and happily use their products and ignore the design argument.

So this wasn't necessarily Mayer's doing, but certainly the only possible product of an engineering-first culture she helped build.
posted by danny the boy at 4:44 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


All of which still look and behave kind of like a developer made them in their spare time. What exactly did her job entail? Did she wake up in the morning and say, "We need more whitespace on the home page people! Oh, and do something cute with the logo to make it look shittier."

Man, if you've ever lived or worked with someone who simply can't see negative space as a design aesthetic, it is seriously an uphill and constant battle all the time. In an advertising driven environment, this impresses me a bit. And looking at the main reason I avoid Yahoo! these days, it's primarily because of a lack of design aesthetic that fills up ever space like it belongs an an episode of Horders. Because if there's an empty space, by golly, something should go there.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:46 PM on July 16, 2012 [14 favorites]


She seems the perfect choice to me. I've worked with her and I can tell you that she's very good at making things simple and uncluttered. As Yahoo is currently the kind of trash heap you see when the garage door opens in Storage Wars, that has to be a good thing.
posted by w0mbat at 4:48 PM on July 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Like, there are designers at Google too. Do you think no one on the Gmail team has at some point in the last EIGHT YEARS said "hey lets consider this scenario: the user wants to read their unread messages". This is the sort of thing so reasonable and basic that it could only have been shouted down from above.

And god the homepage. The whole "we'll put nothing but a searchbox and a button on it" type thinking is EXACTLY the sort of thing that some executive would pat themselves on the back for being so revolutionary and contrarian about. Yes, good job, congratulations on accidentally coming across a solution that works.

Now, what exactly is the process you used there, that you'll be able to repeat across all the other products and strategies you've been put in charge of?
posted by danny the boy at 4:55 PM on July 16, 2012


danny the boy: "I mean, look at Gmail--up until the recent (insert your own adjective here) redesign, the only way to read a list of your unread messages was to type "is:unread" into the search box."

Or you could just start up your favorite email power client and sort your messages however you like. I've used gmail heavily for years and I actually stopped using clients because the web client was so much better. Is this really the horror story you're trying to show as an example of the drawbacks of google's engineer-first culture? Because the android ux is much lower-hanging fruit...
posted by mullingitover at 4:55 PM on July 16, 2012


Now, what exactly is the process you used there, that you'll be able to repeat across all the other products and strategies you've been put in charge of?

Perhaps it's more the way that you would figure out how to make a gazillion dollars without forcing ads and products in every nook and cranny.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:59 PM on July 16, 2012


"She said Yahoo was “one of the best brands on the Internet.” That confuses me a bit...

Yahoo! had 167M unique visitors in May, second only to Google (Facebook is #4, though has higher "engagement" as measured by time spent with the site).

So even if we MeFites think of Yahoo! as mainly the place where Flickr went to wither, it's most definitely one of the "best brands on the Internet."
posted by donovan at 4:59 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Google doesn't understand design as an organization, and simply can't do it. Mayer was, and will always be, an engineer. Which is great for building tech, but not great for building product.

They're an ad company, and very successful one (perhaps the only successful one at this time). The other stuff is just ancillary gimmicks and gadgets.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:01 PM on July 16, 2012


Marissa stole the precious thing.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 5:04 PM on July 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


donovan: "Yahoo! had 167M unique visitors in May, second only to Google"

I wonder if there's another company we could compare to Yahoo?
Deja vu.
posted by mullingitover at 5:06 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, I haven't actually looked at Yahoo's home page in years and years. What a complete mess of a page.
posted by octothorpe at 5:06 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder what this means for the Dale Chihuly designed glass ceiling she had installed home.
posted by Frank Grimes at 5:11 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would have continued to use Yahoo, except that there are huge friggin' Flash banner ads that look just gross.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:12 PM on July 16, 2012


quadog:
"From the article:

"Ms. Mayer had for years been responsible for the look and feel of Google’s most popular products: the famously unadorned white search homepage, Gmail, Google News and Google Images."

All of which still look and behave kind of like a developer made them in their spare time. ....

Yahoo, have you learned nothing from the success of Apple?
"
Wut? Developers design shit like the front page of Yahoo, not the lovely non-cluttered and sparse Google home page (sorry devs! That's just how it goes, you guys are great at code, but design? Not so much).

And what is this about "not learning from the success of Apple"?

Remember when Steve Jobs called Vic Gundotra to complain about the COLOR YELLOW in the Google logo on the iPhone? I guess because it's yellow and not blue, it's ok?

It looks to me like she has the kind of attention to detail that Jobs had, but somehow... What?

And I've always thought that the spartan appearance of Google was closer to Apple than Microsoft, so... I'm not quite sure what your point is. (Yes, Google isn't as "slick" as Apple, so OK, you win, I guess, but is anything? (I don't actually buy that line, but assuming that is your line, then what can compete with Apple in your eyes?))
posted by symbioid at 5:16 PM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I wonder what this means for the Dale Chihuly designed glass ceiling she had installed home.

Probably nothing since Yahoo is in Sunnyvale only an extra 5 minutes down 101.
posted by Talez at 5:17 PM on July 16, 2012


Covering over an interface with six cans of Swoopy Curves And Wet Floors does not a good interface make . . .

You're arguing my point. Covering an interface with blocks of White, Black And Red does not a good interface make either. Google has conflated the mantra of "simplicity" for informed decisions about interaction and usability. Mayer had to be a driver for this kind of thinking. Google has succeeded in spite of this because they do the other stuff so very, very well.
posted by quadog at 5:17 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


symbioid:

Those are two different stories about color. One story is about respect; the other about lack of respect. Steve's attention to detail on Google's yellow tells you about his awareness of branding. Google's preoccupation with 41 shades of blue tells you how wonky that culture is with regards to design.
posted by quadog at 5:25 PM on July 16, 2012


Yeah, when we respect Steve Jobs, it's good. When we are forced to respect data, it's bad.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:38 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Google's preoccupation with 41 shades of blue tells you how wonky that culture is with regards to design.

And no matter how much it comes up, people don't seem to get that this is not how things are generally done at Google anymore.

Of course, many people still dislike Google design and thats fine, but the "design by experiment" days are mostly over.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:41 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Meh, she is just a cat's paw as an entre to an acquisition by google.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:56 PM on July 16, 2012


Oh sweet! I finally rediscovered Betteridge's Law of Headlines and here is a great opportunity to quote it! "No."
posted by A dead Quaker at 5:57 PM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


So does anyone have an idea on what she could possibly do to save Yahoo?
posted by LarryC at 6:00 PM on July 16, 2012


Somebody the other day had a great link on metafilter to an artist Tom Sachs's design videos which are great. One thing I noticed in there was he said blue was the most difficult color to deal with. (Of the ones he routinely deals with--for some reason he claimed he does not use purple at all.) And this is an idea I can really sympathize with. Microsoft blue is horrible. Metafilter blue is OK to me but I know a lot of users do not like it. Prismacolor # 903 "True Blue" can look awful and Los Angeles Dodgers blue is as bad as microsoft blue.

So I am not so sure that testing 41 shades of blue is a fatal flaw.
posted by bukvich at 6:01 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wut? Developers design shit like the front page of Yahoo, not the lovely non-cluttered and sparse Google home page (sorry devs! That's just how it goes, you guys are great at code, but design? Not so much).

Pretty sure the 1999 Google homepage was a pure developer effort.
posted by Artw at 6:15 PM on July 16, 2012


So does anyone have an idea on what she could possibly do to save Yahoo?

She is going to lay off a significant percentage of the staff to make it more attractive as an acquisition, then sell it to MS or Google. I'm really do think she was selected for her ties to google. She might just pull a fuck you and sell to MS, they are probably still interested.

Honestly, what else can she do. She can't rebuild Yahoo from the ground up as some kind of kickass technology company. She has to find a technology company what wants what Yahoo is good at, generating content they can show ads on.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:39 PM on July 16, 2012


Meh, she is just a cat's paw as an entre to an acquisition by google.

Wrong on at least two counts, I think. For one, it's a chance for Mayer to take command, something she'd have to outlive Larry and Sergey to do at Google. Second, if you recall, Google propped up Yahoo in the past. They actually like competition because it makes their lives simpler not having to worry about exercise of monopoly power.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:55 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Ms. Mayer had for years been responsible for the look and feel of Google’s most popular products: the famously unadorned white search homepage, Gmail, Google News and Google Images."

All of which still look and behave kind of like a developer made them in their spare time. What exactly did her job entail? Did she wake up in the morning and say, "We need more whitespace on the home page people! Oh, and do something cute with the logo to make it look shittier." I fail to see how this is going to be a win for the struggling (but profitable!) Yahoo.


Damn it, people. The important page on Google isn't its big empty white page with one box and two buttons. That's the easy part. The important part, which Google has managed to completely fuck up these last couple of years, is the results page. Whoever's responsible for cluttering the screen with sidebar bullshit and pushing useful results 'below the fold' is part of the heat death of our culture and should be appropriately punished.
posted by waxbanks at 7:03 PM on July 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


If we see the stock price continue to fall she won't last long. Only thing worse than getting sidelined in the google reorg is jumping ship and getting fired. She will sell as soon as possible.Unless she really thinks she can turn Yahoo around.

Dunno, maybe she is still smarting from the slapdown she got at goog and wants to bury them.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:05 PM on July 16, 2012


I want to say that as a UX designer this sort of thinking always pisses me off. So what if it's unadorned? So what if it looked "underbaked?" Is it USEFUL? Can people get stuff done by using it? Does the interface stay out of the way of the user so they can complete their task? Does it make the user happy and want to use it again?
And:
Yeah, when we respect Steve Jobs, it's good. When we are forced to respect data, it's bad.
Data and functionality can only serve a design up to a point. Always you want to focus on core usability, absolutely. But there's more to usability than the metrics Mayer infamously talked about designing for. It's like when that fuckhead CEO from Zynga talks about what makes "good game design". On a shallow level, yeah sure, you're getting what you need. But you're missing things which are much harder to track, yet crucial aspects for design.

An architect I'm into lately talks about the use of ornament for reducing stress in a building's occupants. If a room serves a purpose, you want the design of that room to reflect that purpose in subtle and powerful ways. A bare-bones design will make that purpose clear, but crudeness can be jarring and noticeable and ultimately stress you out in little ways which are nonetheless distracting. A subtler design can both strengthen the emphasis on function and reduce those stresses, which is why tasteful ornamentation ultimately serves a function.

Similarly, Google's simplicity seems fresh when compared to its cluttered competitors like Yahoo. They still have some apps whose simplicity approaches elegance – Maps especially, Search until recently. Their cruder apps, like Gmail and Reader, are beautifully functional, better than most of their competition, yet designed so thoughtlessly that using their web interfaces leaves me noticeably tense. Good design takes that into consideration; you can't test for it, but enough users notice it that it is definitely a thing, and one that turns plenty of people off from Google services.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:13 PM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, good luck to her. Yahoo is the home of many cool and talented people and none Of them have managed to make it shine through in whatever it is they do though.
posted by Artw at 7:14 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder what this means for the Dale Chihuly designed glass ceiling she had installed home.

She smashed it.
posted by roboton666 at 8:07 PM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


A blow for gender equality against shitty overrated artists.
posted by Artw at 8:08 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder what committee of numbskulls designed the new interface for Bitly? Mailchimp is pretty bad too.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:14 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meh, she is just a cat's paw as an entre to an acquisition by google.

If that's the deal, why not hire someone with experience priming companies for sale? Hiring Mayer makes zero sense if this is about getting Yahoo config'd for a buyout (or for breaking the company down).

I think that's what makes this such a huge shock -- we all kinda expected some Goldman Sachs M&A expert to get handed the job of tearing Yahoo down. None of us expected they'd try to save the ship, certainly not with one of the most respected women in tech.
posted by dw at 8:56 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're arguing my point.

No, I'm not.

Covering an interface with blocks of White, Black And Red does not a good interface make either. Google has conflated the mantra of "simplicity" for informed decisions about interaction and usability. Mayer had to be a driver for this kind of thinking. Google has succeeded in spite of this because they do the other stuff so very, very well.

None of this is true. Google is long and deep in designers now. They have internal style guides people design to. They put a lot of thought into what goes where -- more, I'd argue, than pretty much any other firm I've worked with (note: Have not worked with Apple).

One could argue, in fact, that they rely too much on informed decisions now. Their design aesthetic backs them into corners whenever they hit something the style guide considers an edge case, but is fundamental to the design of that particular app.

Some of it comes from GWT, honestly. I've never worked with a framework you have to work so hard at forcing to bend to your design will. I've got a stylesheet with hundreds of !importants in it -- and before my current job I'd never, ever written a !important in a stylesheet in my life. GWT is still trying to support IE6, and it makes itself crazy by doing that.

But Google does have a hell of a good design staff. As has been mentioned upthread, the days of 41 blues are over. The results page has been their biggest source of cruft -- perhaps why Bing's been able to make some headway -- but overall, they have a unified look and feel that's very clean and fits with the classical architectural idea of removing things until there's nothing left to remove.

By comparison, I deal every day with people who come to me wanting to add just one more checkbox, just one more swoosh, just one more border. And I'm really tired of dealing with that. I appreciate that Google has managed to push back against "checkbox creep" so well.
posted by dw at 9:09 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


We only got as far as soy templates at my old company, but GWT looks like a horror. Then again, I get that feeling looking at anything that seems to be trying to solve the problem of clientside development being clientside development.
posted by Artw at 9:12 PM on July 16, 2012


She's also pregnant, due in October and plans to take a maternity leave of a few weeks and work throughout it. Which is her choice, obviously, but also kind of depressing at the same time.
posted by kate blank at 9:24 PM on July 16, 2012


BTW, she's pregnant.

And this is one of the funniest videos on the internet, starring her weird nervous laugh.
posted by falameufilho at 9:28 PM on July 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


^ Oh My God.
posted by victory_laser at 9:35 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


The timing on the news makes for some interesting stock price watching. The hire was announced just after the market closed, and Yahoo's stock went up 2% in after hours. Apparently the market thinks she'll be good, though not great, for Yahoo. Then the pregnancy was announced after after hours trading closed. So the pre-market trading tomorrow should reflect the market sentiment rather specifically on pregnancy.
posted by scottreynen at 9:48 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Still makes sense to me. They don't want to fire every tenth person and sell of pieces. I think this is going to surgical. She knows tech and she knows exactly what google needs and doesn't have. In a way I hope you guys are right, but I don't see her succeeding in reviving Yahoo.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:50 PM on July 16, 2012


My last and least likely prediction. She is trying to engineer and triumphant return to Google. She will let Google continue to fail at "social" while quietly building Yahoo. Just when it seems darkest for goog, she will offer them a lifeline and take the helm of the new combined company. After the merger she will face down Larry in the halls of the yoogleplex and and say something so cutting I can't even imagine it.

Makes perfect sense.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:06 PM on July 16, 2012


As someone who isn't into sports, I recently discovered talking with my (technically-savvy, google and apple-loving) coworkers that many sports fans quite like Yahoo sports.

> And this is one of the funniest videos on the internet, starring her weird nervous laugh.

Holy shit.
posted by !Jim at 11:03 PM on July 16, 2012


Also, heaven-forbid there be anything but snark in a comment thread, but here's an interview with Marissa Mayer where she talks about building product and building teams.
posted by !Jim at 11:04 PM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sorry to serial post, here are a couple of threads on Hacker News where people share their personal experiences of having worked under Marissa Mayer.
posted by !Jim at 11:07 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


When the Big One finally hits San Francisco, I think the last place I'd want to be is underneath a Dale Chihuly ceiling installation.
posted by gottabefunky at 12:30 AM on July 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yahoo looks like a really great challenge.

Perhaps she looked at Pipes, looked at the talent, looked at the laughably shitty management and thought "you know what, this could be fun".

I doubt she lacks for confidence or self-belief and turning Yahoo around would be a career defining accomplishment. Those are probably thin on the ground at her level.
posted by fullerine at 1:09 AM on July 17, 2012


From the inside, I can only say this:

Yahoo is doing some things right now (tech-wise) that it really, really needs to do (and should have done a long time ago), doing it fast, and the right person is leading the tech portion of that particular charge (a woman, in fact.) The project will finally get Yahoo to a point where...well, we won't be on a level playing field yet, but we will be playing the same game, finally. Given the audience of (admittedly non-savvy, but loyal) users Yahoo has, this needs to happen now or never, and I am pleased to say it is happening now.

Unfortunately, that won't mean a thing until/unless Yahoo stops reorganizing, stops building solutions that compete with each other within the organization, stops hiring programmers who are extremely experienced in one technology and assigning them to work in other technologies*, and basically stops letting layer upon layer of middle management protect their own jobs above all by making busywork and generating tons of status reports. Without a clear focus at a lower level, never mind a higher one, nobody can get any useful work done.

So good luck, new CEO. We are both from the midwest, and I like your wacky laugh, but I will like you a lot more if you find a way to get this company to stop wasting so much time every day on things that aren't helping, and/or are actively hindering.

*seriously, in the larger group I work in, we hire java programmers and assign them to code javascript; then we hire non-java programmers and assign them to code java. Meanwhile, the javascript coders spend their time doing sysadmin work or writing testing scripts or doing UE design, the HTML coders build properties from pieces that they aren't allowed to change the HTML in, and the designers spend 80% of their time doing finicky little details that add work and reduce usability for features that are requested with great passion, release months late, and end up only useful to a tiny little corner of the userbase. There are days when I truly believe Yahoo is managed by a maze of twisty little managers, all alike...and all wearing blinders. End rant.
posted by davejay at 1:26 AM on July 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


make that "tons of redundant projects and status reports."
posted by davejay at 1:28 AM on July 17, 2012


She's also pregnant, due in October and plans to take a maternity leave of a few weeks and work throughout it. Which is her choice, obviously, but also kind of depressing at the same time.

Which part, the pregnancy or working through her leave? Hope she doesn't work too hard. Rome wasn't built in a day and Yahoo probably won't burn to the ground if she's out of touch for a few weeks.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:41 AM on July 17, 2012


All of which still look and behave kind of like a developer made them in their spare time.

I don't mean to pile-on but I want to add another perspective to this comment. The fact that it still looks pretty much the way it has since Google came into existence is a very big achievement that cannot be understated. It takes a very strong person, who knows how to articulate her reasons, negotiate and ultimately win in the long run to be able to keep a grip on the UI.

It's easier to do this when it's a tiny company. But when the company grows into a behemoth with not just a design group, but also marketing, advertising, and even more developers who probably want to add Shiny New Thing everywhere, I can tell she actually worked her ass off because of the fact that Google doesn't look like Yahoo.
posted by like_neon at 1:59 AM on July 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yahoo is finished. This is an Elop move. She's there to kick the tyres for a couple years and check out what departments are worth saving when they are inevitably bought by Google.
posted by PenDevil at 3:59 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


None of this is true. Google is long and deep in designers now. They have internal style guides people design to. They put a lot of thought into what goes where -- more, I'd argue, than pretty much any other firm I've worked with (note: Have not worked with Apple).

Yeah, but pretty much anybody who's worked for most any firm can tell you that "better design than your average firm" is saying less than jack shit. Unless you work in certain media fields, or advertising/marketing, odds are that even "functional" is too much to ask for.

Critics often note that one of the results of Apple's success in the market for the past 5-10 years has been that software companies consider design a more important factor than they ever seemingly used to (web apps count as software here). You see it most not in firms but in smaller, independent development groups, many of whom realized that a well-designed application could compete with a larger company's half-hearted effort if it won the hearts of its users. Larger companies are figuring this out, to their credit, and some have done fantastic things, but most of them are still in this awkward "we don't quite get it" phase and that sure as shit includes Google. Which, again, still makes 'em better than Yahoo.

One could argue, in fact, that they rely too much on informed decisions now. Their design aesthetic backs them into corners whenever they hit something the style guide considers an edge case, but is fundamental to the design of that particular app.

I wouldn't call that "informed". Design emerges from function. If Google's "design aesthetic" is so rigid that it impairs fundamental functionality, it's only a design pretense.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:36 AM on July 17, 2012


inevitably bought by Google

This doesn't seem inevitable at all to me; it seems very unlikely. First, Yahoo doesn't seem very valuable to Google. The few parts of Yahoo that aren't redundant with existing Google assets aren't very profitable and would be expensive to integrate. Second, would it pass FTC and Justice Department review? Google has ~80% marketshare and Yahoo is second with ~7%. That looks incredibly anti-competitive at first glance. And if they do think they could make it through review, what about the press reaction and changing public perception of Google? Do they really want to risk so publicly position themselves as a company that buys and kills competition?

All of that seems to combine to, if not entirely kill interest, significantly reduce the price Google would be willing to pay for Yahoo. Meanwhile Microsoft has very publicly expressed interest, with few of these drawbacks, and there's no shortage of other enemies of Google (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Oracle, Baidu, ...) who would benefit more than Google from owning Yahoo.
posted by scottreynen at 5:34 AM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Which part, the pregnancy or working through her leave?

Oh, the pregnancy is wonderful and obviously very happy news, I am just sorry that she is limiting herself to such a short/incomplete maternity leave. (Although, to be clear, I'm not judging her or her choices, just projecting some of my own family v. career angst.)
posted by kate blank at 7:37 AM on July 17, 2012


She's also pregnant, due in October and plans to take a maternity leave of a few weeks and work throughout it. Which is her choice, obviously, but also kind of depressing at the same time.

Well she is now the top dog at Yahoo whose actions will play the biggest part in determining whether Yahoo sinks or swims, and I assume she's being paid very handsomely to do that job. Part of that extravagant pay is to compensate for her spending all of her energy 24/7 trying to run Yahoo. I would say what's expected from her re: maternity leave is and should be very different than, say, a pregnant mid-level employee.
posted by gyc at 8:30 AM on July 17, 2012


Dear Marissa Mayer
posted by gwint at 8:48 AM on July 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


what I used to feel whenever someone gave me their AOL email address is what I started feeling about Yahoo about 5 years ago

posted by danny the boy at 4:35 PM on July 16 [5 favorites +] [!]


Smug and arrogant?
posted by ambient2 at 1:04 PM on July 17, 2012


Actually I am filled with the urge to take them home, bathe them, feed them a hot meal, and explain to them why they don't need to have 80% of their visual field filled with marketing and "news stories" just to have free web-based email.
posted by danny the boy at 1:56 PM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ad hominem: So does anyone have an idea on what she could possibly do to save Yahoo?

She is going to lay off a significant percentage of the staff to make it more attractive as an acquisition, then sell it to MS or Google. I'm really do think she was selected for her ties to google. She might just pull a fuck you and sell to MS, they are probably still interested.
Not a chance. That would rewrite her legacy from "skyrocketing female engineer-turned-megaCEO" into "slash-and-burn raider." She won't do that.
CheeseDigestsAll: Second, if you recall, Google propped up Yahoo in the past. They actually like competition because it makes their lives simpler not having to worry about exercise of monopoly power.
Yep, THIS is why Google is secretly not angry at her for leaving, and even wishes her (some) luck. They don't want Yahoo to fail; they want it to remain a minority player.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:19 PM on July 17, 2012


They don't want Yahoo to fail; they want it to remain a minority player.

or possibly because Google's senior executives are not all psychopathic assholes. Maybe they're actually friendly towards both her and Yahoo outside of work hours?

At any rate, I have at one point seen Meyer's interview stats. She did something like 500 or 800 interviews in her decade at Google - I forget the exact number. She personally hired a huge number of product managers at Google, in so far as anyone does anything individually at Google. You may not love everything about el GOOG but Mayer knows what she wants and what she wants is people who deliver. I mean, Google will kill more products in a year than most companies of any size will ship. That's how much we ship.

Name one thing Yahoo shipped this year.

She is exactly what that place needs.
posted by GuyZero at 9:56 PM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


If Google's "design aesthetic" is so rigid that it impairs fundamental functionality, it's only a design pretense.

Which is why you check all your email in Mail.app? Please.

Complain about gmail until your eyes bleed, but if you keep coming back to it then either it's doing something right or you're a masochist.
posted by GuyZero at 9:59 PM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


GuyZero: They don't want Yahoo to fail; they want it to remain a minority player.

or possibly because Google's senior executives are not all psychopathic assholes. Maybe they're actually friendly towards both her and Yahoo outside of work hours?
It doesn't take a "psychopathic asshole" to be upset when a colleague suddenly jumps from the bow of your ship to the helm of your competitor's, shouting, "Ahead full sails!"

In fact, most successful execs are quite capable of being angry at a departure, and happy for the individual, all at the same time. People are complex like that. Give them some credit.
Name one thing Yahoo shipped this year.

She is exactly what that place needs.
Agreed.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:08 AM on July 18, 2012


The news was all a-buzz about how the choice made Yahoo's stock price JUMP!!! in overnight sales. In case anyone hasn't checked since then, by the end of the day... (Hiring Mayer occurs at the "P" flag on that timeline).

In short, the stock priceline looks like this: __|___

There was a 17-hr window in which you could have made a profit by selling your YHOO shares.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:17 AM on July 18, 2012


jaduncan: The Manchurian CEO?
New phrase for that: The Elop.
PenDevil: This is an Elop move.
Google's not helping me here (hmm, ironically)... Elop of Nokia? Context, please.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:21 AM on July 18, 2012


Exactly that - Elop was at Microsoft before Nokia, and shortly after joining Nokia announced the move to Windows Phone as the Nokia smartphone OS. There's a theory that he is doing this either to advance Microsoft's agenda by increasing Windows Phone user numbers, or to prepare Nokia for a buyout to become Microsoft's mobile technology arm.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:58 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


It seems very unlikely that someone ambitious enough to become CEO of a company the size of Yahoo or Nokia would be excited about having the company bought out so they can lead a division of another company. Of the money was right they would do it, but I doubt it would GE the first or even second choice.
posted by humanfont at 8:05 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, the arrival of a Canadian CEO from an American company at what was previously effectively part of the Finnish state apparatus, followed by the sunsetting of Meego (which had large numbers of Finns working on the UI and implementation) and by extension Qt, was something of a culture shock to Nokia enthusiasts (and open source enthusiasts, insofar as the phone market has any). I think Elop-as-sleeper-agent is part of the healing process.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:15 AM on July 18, 2012


Name one thing Yahoo shipped this year.

I work here, and I had to think for a while before I remembered Axis. Sigh.
posted by davejay at 4:00 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Axis is nice, though. But wow.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:58 PM on July 18, 2012


Thanks for shipping Axis so that I got to pretend to be the Allies for a while.
posted by GuyZero at 10:40 PM on July 18, 2012




« Older What happened with Iceland?   |   "At least we aren't BP" Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post