Jason Pontin

A View from Jason Pontin

D3: Is Over. Yahooooo!!!

Kara and Walt are talking to Jerry Yang and Dave Filo, the founders of Yahoo. Kara points out, with a certain wonder, that Yahoo is ten years old! Walt asks what on earth the two were thinking of when they…

  • May 24, 2005

Kara and Walt are talking to Jerry Yang and Dave Filo, the founders of Yahoo. Kara points out, with a certain wonder, that Yahoo is ten years old! Walt asks what on earth the two were thinking of when they founded the company. Jerry asks, “Do you want to know the truth?” Kara says, “No. Lie to us.” Jerry replies that the idea was to create some kind of platform for the commercialization of the Web. They wanted to help people find things by combining a directory with search–but mainly, he confesses, they were exhausted with their graduate studies in computer science at Stanford, and wanted to do something fun and important.

Walt asks how important maps–like the Google satellite images–will ultimately be. Are they only a novelty? Jerry ducks the question and say, “Well, clearly the feature race is on for sites like ours. People are going to try a lot of things. But our goal for maps and stuff is to think of it functionally as local content. We hopes the communities will create a lot of the content they want. We’ll provide the directory and structure.”

On a releated theme, Jerry talks about how important tagging and community is. “We think that organizing content with tags that users have generated themselves is ultimately the way we want to go. We don’t just want to tell people where to go–although we have always made a big commitment to editorial expertise. But we think that utilizing the interests and expertise of communities is very powerful.”

Walt asks how much longer Yahoo can afford to give away music at below cost. Jerry admits, “We’re very honest that these are introductory prices. I hear that Jobs has a pool going at Apple about how much longer we’ll keep it up. But we think that it’s important to create stickiness and community; when that exists we’ll start thinking about building out the service.”

Walt asks whether Yahoo will organize their content and directories for platforms other than PCs. David points that they already do just that, but Jerry adds, “How do we take a Yahoo experience and make it even more powerful for places other than PCs like phones? How do we organize cell phone images? How do we organize games? How can we make Yahoo mail just as good on any platform?” This would be, he said, an important part of Yahoo’s strategy in the furture.

Finally, there is an interesting exchange about Google. Kara says that the Google boys attribute much of their success to Yahoo’s decision to use Google as Yahoo’s search function. Did David and Jerry regret that choice? Did they needlessly create a competitor? Jerry says, “Sergey and Larry deserve the credit for their own success. When we chose Google, we were thinking about our customers. It was a very difficult period for our industry, and I am just glad we have a business of 100 million users today.”

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