Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Yahoo Go(ne)

Today, I found out that Yahoo Go is gone. It is an interesting development for the Yahoo mobile platform, definitely linked to the departure of Marco Boerries in February (just after presenting the new application at the Mobile World Congress, where I was on the panel... weird).

I have followed the Yahoo Go platform since the beginning. Some days, I felt they were totally on the right path. Some days, I felt the complete opposite. The difference? In the details, as usual.

The idea was intriguing: bringing the entire Yahoo experience on any phone. A rich experience. It made sense.

The problem? Too rich. Too heavy. They tried to implement the app download in chunks (it would not download a feature until you actually wanted to use it), but it was still too slow and too heavy. You might think they were simply ahead of their time. The network were not fast enough. The devices were not powerful enough.

It all came down on usability. The thing was not usable. Period.

On the other side, Google chose a different path: simple one-purpose apps, rather than one gigantic app. The entire Google experience a-la-carte. You can download Maps, if you want. Or Voice. Or Gmail. All individually.

The Google strategy worked. The single-purpose app delivers what you need. It is fast to download and fast to start. It is usable. It also fit well with the iPhone and device manufacturers in general. You give some room to Google but not too much. It is not the full Yahoo experience, it is the Apple experience with some Google flavor (BTW, I think the strategy will backfire, Google will slowly but surely penetrate the entire phone, starting with building their own OS ;-)

I still remember a billboard on 101, where Yahoo was advertising that Yahoo Mobile was years ahead of Google. It was... But it did not last long. It seems ages ago, but I guess it was just before the iPhone (I said it before and I repeat myself: we will always talk about the wireless market before the iPhone and after the iPhone. It changed everything).

Later, Yahoo tried a different strategy to catch up. It focused the app more towards bringing an entire content experience on any phone, including Yahoo. That is, taking your Facebook, Twitter and such and putting it on your device. Something that made sense, but not for Yahoo - in my opinion. They are a content provider, not an aggregator. Those that can aggregate are device manufacturers (think Palm Synergy or MOTOBLUR) and mobile carriers (first out of the gate is Vodafone with 360, many are following in panic, I know because they are calling us...).

What is left for Yahoo? I am not sure. It is a company that has so much content that a mobile extension sounds like a no-brainer. The issue is that the brand is damaged, people are moving away from it every day. I used My Yahoo, Yahoo Mail, Yahoo IM, Yahoo Finance for years and I moved away ever so slowly, one app at a time. I still have my Yahoo email, but that is it. And anything they can do in mobile will probably not matter to me.

However, I have great opinion of David Ko (he is a super-smart guy), so I am sure they will come out with something good. But they need to do it fast.