The Coolest Thing Yahoo Ever Created is Going Away


Yahoo Pipes fans have been expecting this news for a while, and today it came.  Yahoo Pipes, and some other Yahoo products that no one even knew existed, are gone.

I didn’t know Yahoo had a maps application, so I won’t miss it.  I have no idea what GeoPlanet and PlaceSpotter are, so I can’t miss them.  But I have always been a big fan of Yahoo Pipes, which TechCrunch describes as:

[A]n online (and somewhat geeky) visual interface that let you aggregate and filter web data without requiring the end user to have programming skills.

Yes, it was that, but it was a super-charged, very handy that.  It allowed you to easily and graphically create bundles of RSS feeds that you could then syndicate for use in other places and projects.  My original Headline News Page used Yahoo Pipes, as did numerous other content aggregations I developed over the years.  Sure, I didn’t use it as much in the last few years (and, undoubtedly, therein lies the problem), but it was a cool service, and I liked knowing it was a tool at my disposal when needed.

I’m not sure what Yahoo’s long-term plan is, or what it’s trying to become.  But I’m seeing fewer reasons to visit a Yahoo site, not more.  Yahoo could have owned the personal portal space (which I am convinced is not as meager as mobile-first developers would have you believe).  Yahoo ignored Flickr into near oblivion (though they are trying, at least for the moment, to revive it).  Yahoo bought and starved Delicious to death.  I’m not sure what’s left.  But I know what’s gone.

Adios, Yahoo Pipes.  You were cool.  You will be missed.


Adios Yahoo Directory


Those of us old enough to remember the birth of the web have seen some things we thought were awesome at first, that later turned awkward and silly with the passage of time, and ultimately got unceremoniously buried in the potter’s field of the Internet Archive.

There was Geocities.  It looked bad, even back then.  But everyone was there.  It was inevitable.  Like the Borg, and Sharknado 3.  There were web awards.  I remember this awesome technology that put current news headlines into your screen saver.  I have no idea why that app died- I’d use it now.

And there was Yahoo.  Front and center.  It was the search engine of choice for a while, but it was originally the directory for the entire internet.  Yahoo Directory was the digital equivalent of the boards you look at in building lobbies to see where you need to go.

In other words, it was a very big deal.


There I am.  With a link that still works.  And only 7 spots away from Wayne Newton!

It seems silly now, but back in the day, we browsed that directory like the newfangled yellow pages it was, looking for whatever we were looking for.  It was fast and hip.  Or at least it seemed that way.

Now it’s about to go away.  At the end of this year, Yahoo Directory will be shuttered.  It’s a little sad, given its cultural importance, to the entire internet and inarguably to Yahoo.  Yahoo should create a digital museum and move it there.  But apparently that’s not the plan.

Which is OK, I guess  Wayne and I will absorb the blow, and move on.

Like time, and the web.

A hopeful postscript:

I understand Yahoo’s need to move somewhere, given, you know, Google.  And I get that one needs to chop off dead branches for the good of the tree.  But I hope Yahoo will keep in mind that technical achievement, even if now outdated, should be remembered.  I also hope they don’t start sacrificing cool stuff that still works just because it doesn’t attract enough eyeballs.  Yes, I’m talking about Yahoo Pipes.  It will bum me out if Yahoo’s ax finds its way to the wonderful and still useful Pipes.  Take away everything else Yahoo.  But leave Yahoo Pipes alone.

At least for a while.

Is the Demise of iGoogle an Opportunity for Yahoo?

I’ve been a proponent and user of internet start pages for a long, long time. My primary start page is a handmade one here. All of my desktop browsers are set to start and open new tabs there. I even have a mobile version, which I rarely use, simply because almost all mobile computing is done via apps (no one surfs the web on a phone; those who claim to are kidding, confused or lying).

I also use a third party start page for news, weather, sports, stocks, etc., because it is much easier to add widgets to third party start pages than to write them yourself. I used My Yahoo for years. Eventually, Yahoo’s neglect of My Yahoo (as a part of its apparent overall policy of neglecting every useful part of its web-based assets) and my growing dependence on Google, led me to largely abandon My Yahoo for iGoogle. Just in time for Google to announce the discontinuance of iGoogle, in what I interpret to be another doomed attempt at forcing users to embrace Google+.

Is this an opportunity for Yahoo?

There are a few alternatives out there. Netvibes is one that people are talking about. I’ve had a Netvibes account since the early beta, but I had to recover my credentials to see what my page looks like (e.g., I never use it).



That page screams 5 years ago, but with a little effort I could make it look and work OK. But My Yahoo could be so much better, if Yahoo would spend a fraction of the time nurturing it that it spends hiring and firing CEOs.


My Yahoo

My biggest criteria for a third party start page used to be which one was better. Now, it’s which one will likely exist longer. On the one hand, any start page could be trashed or bought or ignored into complete obsolescence at any moment. On the other, sometimes a market that everyone is abandoning is an opportunity in disguise.

Particularly if you have a built-in advantage.

Neither Google nor Netvibes is a content producer. Thus, most content they serve up is third party content. Yahoo, on the other hand, seems- at least at the moment- to be interested in producing content:

Levinsohn also will expand Yahoo’s effort to create its own news coverage of big events, such as the Olympics and national elections.

That fact, combined with the ad-serving potential and stickiness of an online home-base, sounds like an opportunity. Create a place people will actually want to use.  Fill it up with your content and that of your content partners, sell some ads. Make some money. Reclaim your mojo. And so on.

For this to work, Yahoo has to (a) be paying attention, (b) recognize this opportunity, (c) seize the opportunity now, not months from now, and (d) allocate the resources to make it awesome. Sounds like a long shot, but that’s better than no shot. I hope Yahoo gives it a try. I’d love to love My Yahoo.


Hey Scott Thompson, If You Really Want to Fix Yahoo, Here’s an Easy Place to Start

When I heard Scott Thompson was the new CEO of Yahoo, I thought we had this.


Not this.


I hope trying to fix Yahoo doesn’t turn the latter into the former.  So I’m going to help.  You want to fix Yahoo, here’s an easy place to start.

News.  Stay with me here, Scott.  I’m serious.

I’m neither a Yahoo lover nor a Yahoo hater.  I don’t and won’t use it for email or web searches.  I do like (and pay for) Flickr, but that’s not a big enough application to be a flagship product.

What I like best about Yahoo is its news.  For whatever reason, I find myself reading current news at or via Yahoo more than any other source.  Either via My Yahoo or the news headlines I have programmed onto my start page.  I just like the way Yahoo news stories are presented and formatted.

Much of my news was, for many years, consumed via My Yahoo, until I capitulated  to iGoogle (and specifically the Google News widget there) sometime last year.  But still, My Yahoo is much more user-friendly.  Among other reasons, because it doesn’t put your stock portfolio in micro, barely readable fonts.  But like many Yahoo products, it seems like it’s being ignored into oblivion.  In fact, much of Yahoo news is being ignored.


For example, at the bottom of many Yahoo news pages are so-called “Editor’s Picks” articles.  I noticed these hard to miss British flag boots months ago.


The problem is that the same story has been an “Editor’s Pick” since June 23, 2011.  Those are some lazy editors.

It doesn’t give me much incentive to click through to those picks.  Not very sticky.

I think Yahoo could be a real player in the personalized news aggregation space, if it would devote some time and resources to My Yahoo and its news offerings.  Microsoft can’t market its way out of a wet paper bag when it comes to online offerings.  Apple doesn’t care about being an online news source.  Neither does Amazon.  The Huffington Post isn’t very appealing, presentation wise.  iGoogle is butt-ugly. Google News is nice, but not very customizable.  Contrary to what some people would like you to believe,  Twitter (follow me via that link) sucks for news (actually in general, including for news).   There seems to be an opportunity here.

So, c’mon Scott, go for it.

And as my payment for putting you on the right track, please don’t kill off Yahoo Pipes.  Still the most under-appreciated thing on the internets.

Chill About Delicious Already





I really don’t get all the outrage about Yahoo shuttering or maybe, in a show of how to be swayed by the sound of nerds crying, selling bookmarking site Delicious.  Anyone who is surprised by this development hasn’t been paying much attention- or using much Delicious.

Delicious  was marginally robust back in 2005 when Yahoo bought it.  If it has improved in any meaningful way in the 5 years since, I certainly can’t tell.  Evolving technology is a fast moving process.  Let anything sit dormant for half a decade and it’s already dead.  Taking it offline is just the funeral.

I also don’t buy the argument that bazillions of people still heavily rely on Delicious.  I tried to use it as my primary bookmarking app, but the fact that I had to manually make every bookmark private was a buzz and deal killer for me.  So while I’m sure a lot of people have accounts, I question how active they are.    I still have a Delicious account.  I also still have an AOL account.  I use them about the same amount- almost never.

Not only is Delicious dated, both in look and in features, but there are a million better alternatives to store and share bookmarks.  I use the built-in synching in Chrome for most bookmarks and Google Reader for the few I want to share.

So, yes, Yahoo is a mess.  If you want to skip the crying over spilled links and really understand why, here’s the place to start (as an aside, I consider that post validation of my myth of the endless advertising dollar sermon that I gave for years until I grew bored with the whole internet non-business plan fiasco).

Would I care if Yahoo disappeared tomorrow?  Maybe a little.  Competition is good, and so to the extent I still believe (only a little) that Yahoo is competition for Google, I want it to stick around.  I also think My Yahoo is the best personal news portal option- much better than iGoogle.  But I would only morn the loss for an hour or so.

Yahoo Pipes is the most impressive Yahoo technology, but no one, probably not even Yahoo, remembers that it isn’t already in the Deadpool.

Flickr is the only Yahoo service I rely on heavily.  Google should seize this opportunity to put another nail in Yahoo’s coffin by fixing Picasa.  I doubt it will, though, because Google is busy on a lot of other stuff (hopefully including sending me a Cr48).

At the end of the post, I hope Yahoo can make it, but if it doesn’t, all that means for most of us is a couple of hours moving our photos somewhere else.

But no matter what, the loss of Delicious is not a blow to the internet.  Not even a small one.

Yahoo Lyrics Search: A Bad Opening Act

I have been waiting for a reasonable place to find and search song lyrics.  Since was shut down by the greedy publishing industry years ago, the only way to find song lyrics has been to google the song and visit one of several ad and pop-up infested lyrics sites.  Now Yahoo has tried to come to the rescue.

Through a deal with Gracenote, a company I am not fond of due to its conscripting for profit the formerly open source CDDB, Yahoo can now allow legal, centralized lyrics searches via it’s Yahoo Music page.

I should have been suspicious when I first visited the search page and saw mostly photos of artists I either don’t recognize or don’t like.  But I soldiered on hopefully.  The search engine is fast.  I think I know why- because the database is so small.

I tested it first by searching for “my feet are too long” to see if it would return John Prine’s Dear Abby.  No luck.  I tried “Dear Abby” and found a song by George Strait.  No Prine.

Next I tried “no senator’s son” and found CCR’s Fortunate Son.  “We can share the wine” returned the Dead’s excellent Jack Straw.  “Never leave Harlan” found no results, even though a song search found Darrell Scott’s excellent song of the same name.

“Killed John Wayne” did not find the Guadalcanal Diary song, thereby proving that Mathew Ingram is a better lyrics source than Yahoo.

“Muskrat Love” found neither the Captain and Tennille version I was expecting nor the Willis Alan Ramsey version I hoped for.

My conclusion is that the lyrics database might be fine for the casual music fan who likes current hit songs and middle of the road oldies, but this is not the one-stop shop for true music fans I hoped it would be.  In fact, I was pretty disappointed.

It would be so much better to have some open source, Wikipedia-like database for lyrics – which could also be ad supported.  But that old greed thing once again stands in the way of logic and usability.

There are also a couple of things about the interface I don’t like.

First, the results are not in any kind of alphabetical order, and they are not sortable.  They should be sortable by artist, song title, genre and year.  Additionally, you have to manually select lyrics search for every search, because the search box selection defaults to “All” (which includes artists, albums, songs, videos and lyrics).  This is an unnecessary irritation.

And the biggest pain in the ass: you also cannot copy (as in copy and paste) the lyrics once you find them.  This is idiotic and shows once again how little the music business trusts or respects its customers.

In sum, Yahoo’s lyrics search is a nice attempt to provide a much needed service. But it’s not ready for prime time.

Not by a long shot.

Technorati tags: ,

Yahoo and My Second Life Problem

second life avatarThere’s an interesting article in today’s New York Times about Yahoo and its efforts to close the revenue gap between it and its arch-rival Google.

Among the financial numbers tossed around, including Yahoo’s ridiculous PE ratio of 34.1 and Google’s vintage Bubble 1.0 ratio of 63.3, is the fact that Google has found a way to better monetize its traffic.  Google generates 11 cents per domestic web search, while Yahoo generates only 4 cents.

The bull side of the Yahoo debate argues that since Yahoo has a ton of traffic, it only needs to better monetize it.  The argument is that it’s better to have a monetization problem than a traffic problem.  Hello, Web 2.0.

I can relate a little to Yahoo’s problem.  As I have mentioned before, I am generally a fan of Second Life as a business platform.  It has a business plan that doesn’t rely strictly on ads.  More and more businesses are looking to Second Life as a way to connect with their customers and potential customers.

But I have grown bored with my personal Second Life experience.  I’m not big on chatting with strangers, and there is no Second Life collective for tech bloggers- at least not one that I have been invited to participate in.  I have been thinking for months about canceling my account.

In the meantime, I decided to do an experiment.  I installed a music player and a bunch of dance pads (where visitors can get paid Linden dollars for dancing) in my Second Life home, configured the dance pads to pay out at a slightly better than market rate, and mostly stayed out of the way.

A funny thing happened.

Traffic to my parcel went off the charts.  I constantly have people hanging around my place, dancing for Linden dollars.  In fact, I have installed more dance pads, and have to rest them twice a week, after they pay out their maximum.

I initially thought that your Second Life stipend (the Linden dollars you get every week from Second Life) went up if you had a lot of traffic.  I checked last night and realized that I was mistaken about that.

So that leaves me with some land that has a ton of traffic, but no plan to turn that traffic into money.  In the meantime, my Linden dollar “burn rate” continues to accelerate.

What to do?

I don’t know, but I’m not sure all my traffic makes my parcel any more valuable than the empty land next door.  It costs a lot of Linden dollars to operate my parcel, and nothing to operate the empty land.  And our revenue (the Second Life stipend) is the same.

Without a viable monetization plan, I think Yahoo and I are screwed.  Fred Wilson seems to agree, though for a different reason.

Come visit my Second Life establishment at Sibine 03 (106,33).  Suggestions to turn my traffic into revenue would be welcomed.

Maybe Yahoo will buy me before Microsoft buys Yahoo.

Technorati tags: ,

Quote of the Day

Esther Dyson on Google and Yahoo and click fraud:

[T]his thing won’t get cleaned up until the advertisers – the ones who inject the money into the system in the first place – start requiring more accountability from their partners, starting with Google and Yahoo! and ending where the money ends.   As a collection agent, Google and Yahoo! may not really care…until they are told to care.

If I were the CEO of one of the big online ad buyers, I’d call my marketing director into my office and make him or her explain this to me.  I’d want to know exactly what my company was doing to demand that Google and Yahoo become part of the solution and not part of the problem.

I’d make sure my marketing department wasn’t asleep at the switch in the name of budget allocation protection.


Soundbite or Corporate Policy

That’s the only question that needs to be asked to Yahoo following the statement by Yahoo Music chief Dave Goldberg that record labels should sell music without copy protection.

Everyone knows that the DRM-infestation that has ruined online music and put the screws to consumers to buy multiple copies of the same thing is horse manure (to put it mildly).

But until one big company who has both skin in the game and enough mindshare to kick-start a movement calls foul and stops pushing this crap on consumers, this is just a soundbite. There’s no need to “prompt industry-wide discussion.” It’s being discussed now, but since the record label cartel has all the bargaining power, we’re not getting anywhere.

The prospect of getting booted off of Yahoo’s music service would create enough bargaining power to at least bring the record labels to the negotiating table.

Yahoo, tell the record label cartel no. Make your music store DRM-free. Don’t toss out some unwanted, non-binding advice.

Take a stand. Make it happen.

Yahoo's New Plan: Why I Don't Buy It

Tired of watching Google get all the press for throwing away money, Yahoo has now decided that it needs to lower the price of its search service from free to we pay you.

That’s right, Yahoo has sent some emails to some Yahoo Mail users asking if they would be willing to use Yahoo’s (free) web search as their default search engine for money. Yahoo’s opening price is some extra email storage or a Netflix discount or maybe some frequent flyer miles. I thought about signing up, but I’m going to wait for a sale so I can get a bicycle or a toaster or something.

Here’s the problem with this war that Yahoo and Google and others are waging for internet eyeballs. It is based almost entirely on ad revenue and/or pushing something (like Google’s bloatware, videos of some old TV shows and DRM infested iPod fodder) on consumers that consumers really don’t need. At the end of the day, this whole business is designed to get money from us. Say it with me now: at the end of the day, this is about getting some of our money. None of these companies are charitable organizations. They are huge companies looking for ways to support huge valuations.

Follow the projected money trail upstream and you will find that the source of the river is our pocketbooks. Of course I think the river is a mirage, but what do I know.

So they can dress the dog up to look like a chicken by proclaiming the benefits of more bloatware in the form of pre-installed free stuff and some frequent flyer miles for some government subsidized soon to be bankrupt airline, but the ultimate plan is for us, the consumers, to part with some money. Not by buying a product from Yahoo, but by clicking on some online ads and buying something from one of Yahoo’s advertisers. It’s like paying us to stare at a billboard.

Yes, by giving away its money Yahoo may increase traffic to its video or music pages, but does anyone really think selling that stuff at such thin margins is worth all this effort? The content producers (record labels, Hollywood) get all the juice on those sales anyway, so a music or video store is really just an alternate form of advertising. It’s an Amazon Affiliate page on steroids.

Expensive corporate wars fought over the right to toss some cyclical and marginally effective online ads in our faces is not the approach I would take to support my lofty valuations. Go build something that people will pay for. That’s the way to make money. Sell something. Buying eyeballs is a losing proposition because eyeballs aren’t loyal.

Yahoo figures, correctly in many respects, that search engines are like gas stations- the best one is the first one you see. So if it can lock up proximity via some frequent searcher plan, it stands to have an advantage over Google (who will have spent zillions by then trying to get Google Toolbars installed on Dells and building a bunch of new internets).

The obvious difference is that once I pull into the nearest gas station, there are things there to buy that I actually need. Gas, food, beer, etc. When I pull up a Yahoo search result there are, at most, only ads that I will never click on for other vendors’ stuff and links to video and music stores I don’t want to visit.

I guess the bottom line is that while I understand what Yahoo is trying to do, I just don’t buy it. Figuratively or literally.

Technorati Tags: