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Jul 14, 2003: The Undeath of Yahoo!? and more

Just read in today's NY Times that Yahoo! is acquiring Overture. Assuming the numbers crunch properly, this seems to be a great move for Yahoo!; they get to combine what's left of their original directory with Overture's keyword service, which actually makes pretty good sense for consumer-oriented directories.Making decisions based on the biggest ad is how yellow pages users often do it; similarly, bidding-based placement seems like it should be appropriate to Yahooligans.

Overture up 12% today; Yahoo! up 3 cents to $32.28. Hmmm. Suddenly Internet stocks are getting interesting to watch again.


And to think, eight years ago I was predicting Yahoo!'s demise. Well, the directory's, at least. This is the first time I've felt that prediction might be wrong.

In other news:

  • AIfIA's initiative to translate IA texts has gone live. It covers seven (count'em) languages: Nederlands, Espanol, Portugues, Italiano, Japanese, Francais, Dansk. Pretty cool. Kudos to Peter van Dijck and team for their great work!
  • Speaking of international IA, Peter Morville's latest Semantics column finds "all sorts of idiosyncratic reasons why information architects should reach across borders." Enjoy!

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Comment: Rich Wiggins (Jul 14, 2003)

Lou, I think you predicted that Yahoo couldn't scale forever as a human-edited catalog. This move validates that prediction.

There is a great quote from Overture's founder, circa 1995, that I referred to in presentations -- something like "We tried the editorial method of building a catalog, and it didn't scale. So we moved to the market method of building a catalog. The market scales infinitely."

He was, and is, exactly right. Just like the Yellow Pages.

A company you know in Ann Arbor, and a financial services company I ran into in East Lansing this week, both find that Overture is dramatically more effective than all competitors in driving productive traffic to their sites.

Comment: ML (Jul 15, 2003)

I'm not so sure this is a good thing although it seemed like it was going to happen eventually. First, I think we're not seeing enough competition out there...while many get all huffy about microsoft taking over everyone's browser choice...I can see the eventual trend of search engines also being taken over by just a small handful. I'm trying to be optimistic, but I'm also wondering if as users we'll ever have any choices left(MSN/AOL/GOOGLE/YAHOO)? Is this just the beginning of the end of search companies as we knew them a few years ago? I just hope that we begin to see bigger(more breadth/depth) and better(relevancy/disambiguation) Internet "finding" engines.

Comment: EM (Jul 16, 2003)

I think the interesting thing here - that people are not mentioning - is that it was only a few months ago that Overture bought AltaVista. So now Yahoo owns them and I am sure that brand name will just disappear into the internet ether.

Comment: Andrew Stevens (Jul 17, 2003)

Overture also purchased the web search unit of Fast Search & Transfer this past February as well. That gives them Alltheweb and Lycos (which uses Fast for its algorithmic search) in addition to Altavista and Inktomi. That's a bunch of arachnids. I can't see all of these surviving the year. My bet is that Altavista.com will start serving results from either the Fast or Inktomi index before long.

Comment: Lawrence Ladomery (Aug 26, 2003)

I used to refer to Yahoo!'s directory regularly before it became a secondary channel of their site and positioned down and out of the way on their home page. Too many distractions there and a sense that quality has been compromised now that the directory isn't 'king' anymore. Cost of submission is also a factor - how many sites are left out because their owners don't want to part with the couple of hundred bucks needed for inclusion?

But I still believe that directories are a useful tool and search dmoz.org instead.

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