One of the saddest scenes in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy is watching the slow-moving Ents – the massive tree shepherds that took days to decide whether or not to react Sauron’s onslaught – are cut down by the wily Orcs. Only a few fall in the battle but when they do the giants of the forests that at first seemed so powerful are exposed to be easily vanquished. They won the battle but we can presume the fallen ones made great kindling for the Orc’s fires.
Yahoo isn’t kindling yet but it – like the mighty AOL Ent on which you’re reading this – has fallen. Mayer’s Old Web property is now part of a phone company, a prospect that would be unfathomable when the first web portals hit the scene.
Think about Yahoo’s mission. Originally a catalog of important things on the web it became what Year 2000 dot-commers called a portal. It was, at its core, a sort of app store with multiple features including chat, weather, mail, and photo storage. It was an early, simple web-based operating system and it was as far away from the backward, boring infrastructure companies that were then trying to figure out a way forward in the online economy.
But infrastructure has one thing going for it: it has revenue, year after year, and that revenue can be used to take down upstarts when they’re weak. That’s exactly what happened here.
Yahoo wasn’t always doomed. It was once, like AOL, a web giant. It still gathers millions of eyeballs and plenty of traffic. But then slowly (then quickly) Google overtook all comers with its superior search and that search revenue helped the company expand away from its core business leading it to create a true app store as well as a truly powerful mobile infrastructure. Yahoo and AOL, for their parts, focused on ad automation and when Facebook ate a piece of that pie they had little left to fight over. The once mighty giants were struck blow after blow and they couldn’t survive.
Interesting read on the Verizon purchase of Yahoo.