Tech Talk: The Decade-Plus Decline Of Yahoo

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The Yahoo of today is in heavy decline, has lost much of its clout, and is on the losing end of a number of acquisitions and big-name hires. Although the possibility for future growth is there, it will be under Verizon's flag. After penning a bittersweet letter to employees, rumors even peg CEO Marissa Mayer as ready to throw in the towel. The Yahoo of the 2000s was a much, much different beast, helping to get the internet on track and turn it into something user-friendly and revolutionary. For a time, they ruled the roost in search, email, and a number of other fronts. Back in its heyday, Yahoo was one of the most successful internet and media companies out there. They revolutionized what such a company could be, and made a huge amount of money along the way. They were cranking out tons of revolutionary new products. They were practically a juggernaut. They were scooping up advertising deals with huge companies left and right.

Among tons of deals that left the company flush with cash, it may have seemed like they were untouchable, but they were setting themselves up for failure. According to insider reports, most of which come from people who no longer work for Yahoo, there was infighting over just about every aspect of company business. People would create new products for the site, and they would fade into obscurity as soon as they were introduced, because not being featured on the front page was essentially a death sentence for a new product. Over time, this led to Yahoo being known for just a few products, with the rest being largely ignored.

The infighting didn't stop there. A number of large decisions that wound up being missed opportunities caused rifts throughout the company. A proposed buyup from Microsoft, to the tune of about $45 billion, split the company inĀ half, with the dissenters eventually winning out and putting the kibosh on the deal. Similar things happened with an opportunity to buy Google early on, and when the option to buy YouTube and Skype were presented. Among all of this, the company's shift into a full-on media company, with web and programming as an afterthought, was well underway. Advertising deals with the likes of Coca-Cola and other big names gave Yahoo a unique position within the web sphere, but also served to seal their eventual fate.

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In the wake of all of the internal strife, traditional advertising methods and the desktop landscape were beginning to fall by the wayside. This was around the late 2000s, just as Google began to become a global force to be reckoned with and rolled out Android, their hook into the mobile future. This is a future that Yahoo never really cast a bet on. With the world of apps and mobile ads in front of them, the stage was all set for Yahoo to begin the obvious part of their decline. Others rose into advertising in a big way, and social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter snatched up users en masse as iOS and Android took off, enabling an always-connected lifestyle among the general population. By the time Marissa Mayer hit the scene in 2014, it was essentially too late. She bolstered Yahoo's Mavens initiatives, helped to promote diverse products, and even made a bid to save Yahoo's failing moonshot factory. Despite all of these efforts, nothing could stop Yahoo's decline. Their business, built on advertising and contracts, depended on them being in the limelight and having a large number of users; this was something that they just couldn't manage anymore. In her recent letter to employees, Mayer says that there is growth potential in the sheer scale and reach offered by Verizon, and that Yahoo may yet have a future, and a bright one at that. Whether she's actually right about that, only time will tell.