Yahoo Imposes Unilateral Profile Changes

October 19, 2008

I have a Yahoo email premium account. I have written before about killing Yahoo for fee services. Since I analyzed Yahoo’s email search system for a paying customer, I just left the account sitting in cyberspace. As part of the test, I created a custom news profile, slapped some sources on the page, and fiddled with the point and click color and layout functions. I check the site periodically to see what’s new. In the last year, the layout changed so an email link is sometimes hard to find. Eh, so what? Then there were new themes. None of which seemed particularly useful to my 64 year old eyes. Eh, so what? Then there was the sharp deterioration in the shopping search. Eh, so what? I did not pay much attention because Yahoo was morphing into a less and less relevant service for my needs.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that Slashdot posted another Yahoo change. You can read the original Slashdot snippet here, dated October 19, 2008. Yahoo explains what it did and why here. As far as I am concerned a free service can change any time it wants. For me, Yahoo’s fiddling around with open source, its Web log asking for help to improve its help, or this shift in profiles are irrelevant. This addled goose is not going to flap his wings or make a sound.

However, it seems that some users are annoyed with the blank profile delivered to them. I logged on and took a gander. Here’s what the new blank profile looks like:

yahoo blank

Amazing. This blank layout is easier for me to read. I can even spot the tiny links to email at the top left hand corner of the display. I don’t care too much for the weird handling of USA Today content, but I skip that drivel regardless of color. The nice red of the stock market declines leaps out at me. Although not shown in the list of financial results is Yahoo’s share price at closing on October 17, 2008, at $12.90, down about $20 from Microsoft’s offer earlier this year. That delta of $20 speaks volumes about Yahoo.

The company is adrift. Grand stand plays like making everything open source won’t work. Even the helpful Yahooligan who reminded me that the real Yahoo shopping service is, not the big shopping search link on the splash page’s search box. You could have fooled me. I thought that when the main page’s search box’s shopping label was clicked, Yahoo would deliver the goods so the speak. Nope, that’s not the “real” service. I also pine for Mindset, a Yahoo experimental search service that was somewhat more helpful for me than the “real” search service. Mindset disappeared without warning in the last 12 months or so.

Melissa Daniels, Yahoo! Community Manager, explains that I can navigate to a tutorial page to learn how to make my profile roll over, play dead, and perform other useful tricks here. I don’t think I will. Judging from the comments on Yahoo message boards, Yahoo has received some interesting posts related to the profile change. Here’s Roamer’s view about the profile impact on Yahoo Chat:

Once again you dolts down at Yahoo Chat! have forced another change on us that was not sought by any of the users, is far too difficult for the basic user to get into and adjust, and like your upgrades to Yahoo Chat last year is another round of crap that proves you all should be drug out to the street and horse whipped for being so out of touch with the users, no wonder even Microsoft isn’t interested in buying you out anymore, you’re too stupid to have a clue!

If you want to read more, this and other user comments are here.

I recall fondly Yahoo’s informing me that my analysis of Google’s programmable search engine was somewhat dumb. In that exchange with Yahoo poobahs, I learned that Yahoo was farther ahead of Google in semantics. Yahoo had technologists and technologies that were equal to or better than Google’s. I learned that my inept discovery of the PSE patent documents and my subsequent write up was wasted effort because Yahoo had more interesting innovations for me to describe in the BearStearns’ report and in my chapter on the PSE in my 2007 study Google Version 2.0.

I was not convinced by Yahoo then, and I am not too confident in Yahoo in October 2008. Let me highlight my personal opinions about the company:

  1. Yahoo has become a mini America Online, not necessarily a good thing, because neither Yahoo or AOL have made any significant progress with regard to Google in years
  2. Yahoo management has bumbled its opportunity to get cash for a turkey. The share price relative to the Microsoft offer tells the story. I remain surprised that shareholders have not been more hostile to the management team.
  3. The technology initiatives are scattered. Compared to the chunk chunk of the Google machine, Yahoo is rushing from change to change, innovation to innovation  with little apparent progress. Google, in contrast, turned in strong numbers in its third quarter and made progress in enterprise applications, mobile telephony, and advertising. Google makes people scared. Yahoo makes people like Roamer (a sample of one) angry.
  4. The sports page is so darned confusing to me, I just navigate to to keep track of the football games. Other interfaces are equally piggy and bewildering to me.

Enough already!

Hiring Bain, the whizzy management consulting firm, to “fix” Yahoo is amusing to me. Maybe Bain will apply the Guinness-type solution to Yahoo? Not much can alter Yahoo’s trajectory at this point. Prove me wrong. Just bring facts.

Stephen Arnold, October 19, 2008


3 Responses to “Yahoo Imposes Unilateral Profile Changes”

  1. Naeem on October 19th, 2008 6:17 pm

    I’m totally in agreement with Stephen , they are aplogizing themselves that they should have let the users know about this change,HOW LAME !!

  2. Naeem on October 19th, 2008 6:19 pm

    I’m totally in agreement with Stephen,they are apologizing themselves that they should have let the users know that change was coming.HOW LAME !!!

  3. Stephen E. Arnold on October 19th, 2008 11:27 pm


    Thank you for posting. I just learned that Google pulled the same trick in the last day or two with its “ig” service. Google is borrowing from both the Microsoft and the Yahoo customer service game plans. Interesting from an academic point of view. Annoying from a customer’s point of view.

    Stephen Arnold, October 20, 2008 from London

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