Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Swing between Passion and Reality

Is Yahoo dying? A recent post by Michael Arrington has caused fierce debate among readers. Firm supporters such as Jason Kolb agreed that "Yahoo is now a dead company." Optimistic analysts such as Tim O'Reilly disagreed by accusing Michael to be too narrow-minded to having overemphasized the importance of Web search. I believe, however, that Yang's decision about dealing with Google or Microsoft is his tough swing between passion and reality.

Jerry Yang has his passion that has led him found Yahoo and also keeps him on the position of Chief Yahoo at present. Yahoo's mission statement tells the passion being to connect people to their passions, communities, and the world’s knowledge. This is what Yang wants Yahoo to be and he has done all he could to keep Yahoo on this direction. A very recent action on executing the passion is the announcement of SearchMonkey, the center of Yahoo's newest Y!OS effort. Surely, I have argued whether such a Y!OS effort is realistic enough on the basis of the current status of Web evolution. Unquestionably, however, the dream is beautiful and it is worth of trying.

In comparison, what is the passion of Microsoft? Bloody money. Bill Gates steps down and rumors tell that he would never come back to Microsoft administration again. After the leaving of its visionary founder, Microsoft has become a giant machine of money maker and only a money maker. It may not be a bad news for Microsoft stockholders. But it is a bad news for passionate Web innovators.

The deal with Yahoo and Microsoft would sentence the instant death of Yang's passion for the company from the beginning. It is something intolerable for long-sighted visionary leaders. Yang is willing to be the CEO of Yahoo with $1 annual salary because of his passion. Hence he will never allow the passion being a joke, at least not a joke when he still has the controlling power.

The Google-Yahoo deal is a different contract. By this deal, Yahoo reserves its right to continuously look for its dream (though for limited time period) by formally surrendering to Google on the current Web search market.

There are two critical keywords I emphasized in the previous sentence. The first one is surrendering. Michael Arrington has ceaselessly addressed that the difference between Microsoft-Yahoo deal and the Google-Yahoo deal is only the difference between instance death sentence and suspended death sentence, and he does have overemphasize the term "death" but forgotten the meaning of "suspended". To me, the suspended death sentence means more about "surrender" than about "death". By either "surrender" or "suspended", Yahoo still has its chance to come back. By "instance sentence", however, Yahoo will not have any more chances at all.

The second keyword I want to address is current. As I always advocate and I advocate it once again, the Web is evolving and it evolves faster than many of us think. Google may not be the leader of Web search forever. The SearchMonkey and Y!OS are Yahoo's announced strategy to come back. But Yahoo needs time to execute the strategy. The suspended sentence brought by the Google-Yahoo deal provides the time. Though we don't know whether the length of time might be long enough, at least the passion and dream of Yahoo have survived from the instant death at present.

Is Yang's passion unfair to Yahoo's shareholders, especially to Mr. Carl Icahn? In short term, definitely. In long term, we do not know. As I said before, "capital is near-sighted." The lack of short-term profits can easily kill a long-sighted visionary capitalist without a question. Jerry Yang is current taking this pressure. As a peer thinker, I sincerely wish him the best of his luck to be able to survive from the crudeness of capital.

In summary, Jerry Yang is taking a swing between his passion and the crude reality of capitalism. The swing is currently on the side of passion and Yang has done all he could to protect the dream of Yahoo. Be honest, it is also the dream of any free thinkers on the Web. Let's pray for Yahoo and Yang.


Anonymous said...

Yihong, you have articulated exactly what I have been thinking for a very very long time on this subject. Jerry is our kind of guy :-)

Yihong Ding said...

I agree. Although I often do not agree to Yang's decisions at the level of detailed plans (because he used to be too optimistic on the future when designing plans), I am beside him on his vision and his passion. I am honored to be YOUR kind of guy. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi guys, hi Yihong,

These are hard days for Jerry...But it's mainly his fault as CEO. Yahoo lost it's focus a long time ago. They had some damper (being public, etc.). but shareholders don't want to wait RoI forever. Jerry just lost focus. Can you answer in one sentence what is Yahoo business?

And this's just stupid. Jerry could take those money and move on. To the next company. Start from the scratch. And the shareholders could be happy. It's really, really stupid decision.

Yihong Ding said...


I understand what you said. I do not agree to many decisions made by Jerry either. But I am sympathetic to his passion.

If you have raised a baby for more than 10 years, it is very hard for you to say quit. This is Yang's feeling. Yahoo was Yang's baby. And he has raised the baby to a big kid and once a while the kid was one of the strongest kids in the world. Even at this moment, this kid is still a quite pretty one. How can the father Yang give it away?

As I mentioned in the post, it is unfair to the Yahoo shareholders. I agree to this point. But from the beginning, it is a swing between passion and reality. Many times, vision means take risk.

As you have commented, however, the problem of Jerry is that he cannot correctly convert this passion to realistic execution plans. This is the true problem of Yahoo. Either Yahoo Directory or the present SearchMonkey are great projects with superior vision, the problem is that Jerry does not understand the progress of Web evolution. So as I have analyzed Yahoo for many times, Yahoo's plan always tries to produce overqualified Web resources that cannot be efficiently consumed at the meantime. This is indeed sad for visionary thinkers.

Vlad, I think your plan is fair enough with respect to the present Web. The main consideration is on the detailed implementation level.

Adam, we need to be very careful of the Imindi service design. Yang's overqualified resource production is the easiest mistake for visionary innovators to make, especially when a service is so novel and advanced in its theory as Imindi.

Anonymous said...


What do you mean "your plan is fair enough with respect to the present Web. The main consideration is on the detailed implementation level"?

Sorry, I missed the point)))

Yihong Ding said...


I just mean that you do not need to worry of the problem Jerry Yang has encountered. You have made an excellent plan for your new company and it satisfies the demand of the current Web. Hence the only remaining thing is how to implement it to be more efficient.

I am still thinking of the request you discussed with me. Let's wait a few more days, however, because it is almost my anniversary celebration with my wife. I need a short break. ;-)

Anonymous said...


oh! Congratulations!!))))) Of course, no need to hurry.

I'm a little busy here too, because I need to pass 2 exams in 2 days. Tomorrow I have Automation Control Theory and the day after tomorrow - Phylosophy)))

I must confess I made a huge mistake attending my Master program....I didn't know that it's all about Automation Control Theory, I hate it. Now I'm thinking on the possibility to change my mentor. But there is no cool professors here(((