Some thoughts on @MarissaMayer and Yahoo

Marissa Mayer took charge of Yahoo! earlier this week.

There are lots of people weighing in with what she should do; some suggestions, like Marc Andreessen’s to cut 10,000 jobs at the company and de-bloat it make a lot of sense. Users of course straightaway plumped for a revamp of Flickr. It is no doubt going to be an uphill climb to turn the company around but I’m not as pessimistic as some.

In my limited capacity as a long-time user of Yahoo! (I still use Yahoo! Mail every day, and have been a Flickr Pro account holder for a few years now), here’s my personal take on what she should do (in an ideal world!), in no particular order:

1. Buy Quora and integrate Yahoo Answers: Before Quora came along, Yahoo Answers actually provided the community aspect of searching for answers on the web, and continues to be shown in a lot of Google search results. It’s now very low on quality and largely irrelevant as answers are very dated. Quora has taken on a lot of what Yahoo Answers used to do well, but with the added benefit of using the community to filter up the most relevant answers.

2. Make Flickr a place people actually want to be: Get a UX designer in that knows her job. Most people I know who use Flickr use it a) because they’re locked in, having paid subscription fees that are years long and b) haven’t yet seen a solution that is good enough to force them to move – the day they do, Flickr’s time is up. Photostreams are still confusing to access (sets, collections, galleries – nothing is easy to understand or use), and share (guest passes for friends, family, private and public access – surely things don’t have to be so hard).  Seriously, go back to making it a place people want to be. This damning Gizmodo piece shows how Yahoo messed it up so badly, but it’s not too late to change things. Facebook is now the largest photo-sharing site in the world, and I recently heard Sheryl Sandberg say at a talk that they’re really doing things with that.

3. Buy Compfight: It uses the Flickr API – this one should just be a done deal. I use it a lot because it’s much cleaner than Google Images, there’s no worry someone’s going to email you screaming blue murder for using a wrongly-licensed or unlicensed image because it’s so easy to filter by Creative Commons-licenses and it’s free, unlike Shutterstock.

4. De-spam Yahoo Messenger and integrate it better into Yahoo Mail: Too many spammers pop-up on Messenger, diluting the experience, and there’s no way to see who’s online the way Google Talk does.

5. Integrate Notepad into Yahoo Mail: I didn’t even know it existed till recently. Bank a Yahoo version of Google Docs but surely making it easier for people to use what you already have shouldn’t be that tough. Also, be consistent with labelling! Within Mail, Yahoo has ‘contacts’, but then it’s also ‘addresses’ – a UX job is much needed for Mail.

6. Socialise Oddly Enough: There’s the weirdest and coolest of stuff in this section – I mean YouTube pretty much became what it is thanks to Charlie and his ilk, and people keep creating Tumblrs of weird stuff everyday. Get those bedroom bloggers to be part of Oddly Enough to drive traffic.

7. Decide what you want to be: Marissa Mayer has vast experience in search courtesy her time at Google. Carol Bartz focussed on making Yahoo everyone’s personalised homepage. Does Yahoo want to take on Google in the search department? Or does it want to try and take on Facebook in the social department, which Google is still struggling to do with Google+? Can it do both even if it wants to?

8. Shed some parts. Andreessen talked about shedding employee numbers, I’d say close things like Dating and Cars as part of that. They’re not Yahoo’s core competency. They never will be. Yahoo does have a partnership with match.com but I’m not quite sure why, as far as the Dating section goes, and as for Cars – it’s a hodge-podge of a sales notice board and news, resulting in neither being good enough. If I had to buy or sell a car, I’d just go to Autotrader anyway.

9. Mobile: This is a real missed opportunity. Ms. Mayer’s last role at Google focussed on location services. I don’t want to say ‘Foursquare’ but there are things Yahoo could and should be doing on mobile. Make Local part of it, for example, because people are doing things with it. N0tice comes to mind, but there are plenty out there.

My 2p worth.

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