Peanut Butter

What Yahoo could have been

Sam Seely
Sam Seely
Jul 29, 2016 · 5 min read
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What Yahoo could have been

Close to $5b in cash is by no means a shabby exit, but many are left pondering what Yahoo could have been. And for good reason. Yahoo went public in 1996. They were the inaugural consumer web portal for many — the first way consumers interacted with the web and found content. In the twenty years that followed, Yahoo failed to see the new content discovery mechanisms (e.g. search and social) that would dislocate their own directory-based method. By the time Marissa Mayer took over, it was too late. Not for modest success, which activist investors have pleaded for (more on this below,) but for monopoly-level success. Google success. Facebook success.

What Yahoo was all about

When Yahoo started, their core value proposition centered on one thing: enabling users to find stuff on the web. Forget everything else — the mail, the fantasy sports, the classifieds. Yahoo was all about finding content.

Missing the boat

As with many proverbial boats, Yahoo missed theirs because of a lack of focus on their user’s core need: finding content. Yahoo found initial success in their directory model, but they must have known better than anyone that the impending scale of the web would soon outstrip their current method for content discovery. And yet, Yahoo didn’t focus on improving content discovery itself, they just tried to show users more content.

Peanut butter

As Yahoo brought more content and services into their site, they continued to broaden the scope of their business and the number of problems they were attempting to solve for the user. After a spree of projects and deals, Yahoo was no longer the content discovery company, they were the “what exactly does Yahoo do again?” company.


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Sam Seely

Written by

Sam Seely

Living in NYC. Product at Frame.io. Tweets @samseely. Writing at www.samseely.com. Opinions my own.

On Advertising

We’re an open community of Executives, Strategists, Designers, Developers and Students alike, skeptically examining communication, technology and culture.

Sam Seely

Written by

Sam Seely

Living in NYC. Product at Frame.io. Tweets @samseely. Writing at www.samseely.com. Opinions my own.

On Advertising

We’re an open community of Executives, Strategists, Designers, Developers and Students alike, skeptically examining communication, technology and culture.

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