Yahoo was founded by Jerry Yang and David Filo in January 1994 and was an early pioneer in the dotcom boom, but was quickly overhauled by Google and others. In 2008, it rejected a US$44.6 billion bid from Microsoft, and subsequently Yahoo’s market capitalisation slipped to just US$22.24 billion just three years later.
Yahoo! chief Mayer wants Bing to deliver
Google veteran turned Yahoo! chief Marissa Mayer wants Microsoft to deliver when it comes to wresting market share from the Internet company she was part of for more than a decade.
During a talk to financial analysts, Mayer spoke of “nice gains” in revenue from Bing-powered searches at Yahoo! websites but pointed to a pressing need for the Microsoft engine to win users from rivals.
Yahoo! inked a 10-year alliance with Microsoft in 2009 to have Bing handle the heavy lifting of mining and indexing the vast array of online data, leaving the California-based Internet pioneer to customize results for users.
“We have to make the alliance work well enough that we are gaining share from the market,” Mayer said when asked about the future of the partnership onstage at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco.
“We collectively want to grow share rather than just trade share with each other.”
Echoing an oft-heard theme at Google, Mayer stressed the need for speed when it comes to delivering fresh and relevant results to online queries.
Google ruled the US market at the end of last year, handling 66.7 per cent of core searches, while Microsoft and Yahoo! sites fielded 16.3 per cent and 12.2 per cent, respectively, according to industry tracker comScore.
Mayer was Google’s first female engineer when in June 1999 she became employee number 20 at the company created by Stanford University classmates Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
She left Google in July to take the job of chief at Yahoo!, which is struggling to re-invent itself after being eclipsed as the ruling Internet search platform.
Mayer managed some of Google’s most successful innovations and influenced an array of the company’s best recognised features, such as its globally popular search engine and uncluttered home page.
“During my time at Google, I got to wear different hats; pretty much everything across the board,” Mayer said during her first investor conference appearance in her new role. “Yahoo! is a tailor-made job for me.”
Getting people to spend more time at Yahoo! was depicted as the company’s biggest business problem.
Mayer stressed she was focusing on staying in tune with Internet lifestyles increasingly centreed on smartphones or tablet computers.
About 200 million people access Yahoo! properties monthly using mobile devices, according to the Sunnyvale, California-based company.
Mayer said she intends to cut or consolidate the number of Yahoo! mobile applications to 15 or fewer from the 60 to 75 mini-programs currently in the company’s “scattered portfolio.”
“Our goal is to get very focused on the dozen or so applications people use all the time on their phones,” Mayer said. “Some of the apps will go away.”
Mayer advocates personalising Internet offerings to suit individuals and said she will pursue that goal at Yahoo!, taking advantage of feedback available from computers, gadgets and social networks.
“Yahoo! is fundamentally an advertising company,” Mayer said.
“Pulling in the personalised aspect so ads and content work together to create a fantastic experience is what we are focused on and that is where we think the future lies.”
Yahoo! has described its path as that of a “premier content company.” It has made partnerships with television studios and invested in creating original shows for streaming online.
Mayer praised Yahoo! founders for shrewd investments made in Chinese e-commerce platform Alibaba and Yahoo! Japan.
“I really need to give kudos to the founders for making those investments, Jerry Yang in particular,” Mayer said.
Alibaba is providing a huge financial payoff, while Yahoo! Japan is providing the California company strategic position in a key market, according to Mayer.
“We are predominately domestic and not enough of our business is international,” Mayer said while discussing why Yahoo! is not eager to divest itself of its Japanese namesake.
“In Japan, Yahoo! Japan really is the Internet at large and that is significant to us.”
Alibaba Group Holding began repurchasing billions of dollars worth of shares from Yahoo! late last year.