Dear Marissa Mayer,
It's too late to save Delicious, the social platform that Yahoo acquired in 2005 and sold in 2010. But please don't make the same mistake and allow Yahoo to slough off these other strong properties that Yahoo has had for years. They mean more to users, and could mean much more to Yahoo itself, than might be obvious at first glance.
Talk about owning a market and then letting it evaporate. Flickr was at one time the premier photo storage and sharing site among engaged photo buffs. It had features no other photo site did, a very strong free service, and awesome brand recognition. It was the serious photographer's sharing site. But in recent years it's been losing traffic to Facebook and Google Picasa, not to mention upstarts like Instagram. The design and features in the Flickr site now look old-school, and the iPhone app hasn't been updated since December.
Flickr could use some love, and not just for its users' sake. Learning how to run a successful photo site for Yahoo could help the company tackle the broader social sphere, where its current products are also old-school: Mail and instant messaging.
I think you'll find that Flickr is a very Google-like product. It was created by a startup team with an intense focus and drive. It was ahead of its time -- but not too far ahead. Yahoo actually killed its own standard-issue photo sharing site, Yahoo Photos, so that Flickr, which was an acquisition, could live. Yahoo Photos may not have been sexy, but it was a solid product with a standard interface that, arguably, fit in well with the mainstream Yahoo products. Killing it sent a message that Yahoo was interested in pushing its users to be more modern and engaged with new technology concepts. But that kind of change takes follow-through. So do it before it's too late.
2. Connected TV
Yahoo doesn't get a lot of attention for its TV efforts. The failing Google TV platform has more buzz. But Yahoo actually had the right idea with this Connected TV. It is a cross-OS, cross-vendor, licensable widget platform that's just what the TV industry needs. Granted, the TV industry might not agree -- witness all the proprietary operating systems and interfaces that the vendors are building into their products -- but that's only because the right solution hasn't been pitched to them well nor aggressively developed. As Jeremy Toeman, CEO of the cool TV tech startup Dijit, says, "Nobody is doing the TV platform right. Yahoo could be a big player."
Marissa, make Yahoo the TV platform company. It could solve the growing fragmentation issue in the living room. And with your recent acquisition of the social viewing technology company IntoNow, you could bring TV viewers back into Yahoo's own social services.
Oh yeah, you have to build those, too.
The geeky Lego-for-RSS construction kit, Pipes, is so far off the Yahoo reservation that it's not even listed on Yahoo's own Everything page. It is clearly not a consumer product. It is, though, a great tool for educating people on how online content can work (technically speaking). Pipes launched with a lot of potential. Were Yahoo to put more effort into the product, we could see new publishers building interfaces to the platform, hobbyists (and Yahoo developers) building new functions for it, and perhaps even some people building products and interfaces on top of it.
Pipes was the beginning of a platform for new products, a surprisingly engaging canvas for new ideas. The kinds of ideas Yahoo badly needs.
Marissa, you've got a tough job ahead of you, and in an understandable desire to focus, to put your company's energies where they can do the most and the greatest good, chances are you'll be asking your team what projects Yahoo can defer development of or kill outright. But we advise that you reserve some black funds for these old Yahoo favorites. We think it will be worth it.
Rafe Needleman and a bunch of other geeks at CNET