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Yahoo: A Portion of Its Fantastical Search History

April 15, 2015

I have a view of Yahoo. Sure, it was formed when I was part of the team that developed The Point (Top 5% of the Internet). Yahoo had a directory. We had a content processing system. We spoke with Yahoo’s David Filo. Yahoo had a vision, he said. We said, No problem.

The Point became part of Lycos, embracing Fuzzy and his round ball chair. Yahoo, well, Yahoo just got bigger and generally went the way of general purpose portals. CEOs came and went. Stakeholders howled and then sulked.

I read or rather looked at “Yahoo. Semantic Search From Document Retrieval to Virtual Assistants.” You can find the PowerPoint “essay” or “revisionist report” on SlideShare. The deck was assembled by the director of research at Yahoo Labs. I don’t think this outfit is into balloons, self driving automobiles, and dealing with complainers at the European Commission. Here’s the link. Keep in mind you may have to sign up with the LinkedIn service in order to do anything nifty with the content.

The premise of the slide deck is that Yahoo is into semantic search. After some stumbles, semantic search started to become a big deal with Google and rich snippets, Bing and its tiles, and Facebook with its Like button and the magical Open Graph Protocol. The OGP has some fascinating uses. My book CyberOSINT can illuminate some of these uses.

And where is Yahoo in the 2008 to 2010 interval when semantic search was abloom? Patience, grasshopper.

Yahoo was chugging along with its Knowledge Graph. If this does not ring a bell, here’s the illustration used in the deck:


The date is 2013, so Yahoo has been busy since Facebook, Google, and Microsoft were semanticizing their worlds. Yahoo has a process in place. Again from the slide deck:


I was reminded of the diagrams created by other search vendors. These particular diagrams echo the descriptions of the now defunct Siderean Software server’s set up. But most content processing systems are more alike than different.

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Contextual Search Recommended for Sales Pros

April 14, 2015

Sales-productivity pro Doug Winter penned “Traditional Search is Dying as Sales Organizations Make Way for “Context” for Entrepreneur. He explains how companies like Google, Apple, and Yahoo have long been developing “contextual” search, which simply means using data it has gathered about the user to deliver more relevant answers to queries, instead of relying on keywords alone. Consumers have been benefiting from this approach online for years now, and Winter says it’s time for salespeople to apply contextual search to their internal content. He writes:

“The key to how contextual search delivers on its magic is the fact that the most advanced ECM systems are, like Google’s search algorithms, much more knowledgeable about the person searching than we care to admit. What you as a sales rep see is tailored to you because when you sign in, the system knows what types of products you sell and in what geographic areas.”

“Tie in customer data from your customer relationship management (CRM) system and now the ECM knows what buying stage and industry your prospect is in. Leveraging that data, you as a rep shouldn’t then see a universe of content you have to manually sort through. Instead, according to Ring DNA, you should see just a handful of useful pieces you otherwise would have spent 30 hours a month searching for on your own.”

As long as the chosen algorithm succeeds in catching what a salesperson needs in its net, this shift could be a terrific time saver. Sales departments should do their research, however, before investing in any contextual-search tools.

Cynthia Murrell, April 14, 2015

Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at

Yahoo Acronym Mania: MaVeNS

January 28, 2015

Short honk: I read “Marissa Mayer Pretends “MaVeNS” Isn’t A Silly Acronym, Says It Represents Yahoo’s Future.” The odd ball acronym is getting less coverage than Yahoo’s Alibaba tax play. I am not sure if MaVeNS will be sticky. According to the write up the acronym is supposed to denote for me mobile, video, native advertising, and social.

My question is, “What happened to search?” I thought Yahoo was going to create a better search system. I would have accepted the bone of the “S” representing search. Oh, well. Xooglers are a breed apart. But the US government does a much better job with acronyms and code names than Yahoo I believe. Oh, Yahoo does a better job with tax surfing than some other companies.

Stephen E Arnold, January 28, 2015

Inside the Creative Commons Dataset from Yahoo and Flickr

January 5, 2015

These are not our grandparents’ photo albums. With today’s technology, photos and videos are created and shared at a truly astounding pace. Much of that circulation occurs on Flickr, who teamed up with Yahoo to create a cache of nearly 100 million photos and almost 800,000 videos with creative commons licenses for us all to share. gives us the details in “The Ins and Outs of the Yahoo Flickr Creative Commons 100 Million Dataset.” Researchers Bart Thomée and David A. Shamma report:

“To understand more about the visual content of the photos in the dataset, the Flickr Vision team used a deep-learning approach to find the presence of visual concepts, such as people, animals, objects, events, architecture, and scenery across a large sample of the corpus. There’s a diverse collection of visual concepts present in the photos and videos, ranging from indoor to outdoor images, faces to food, nature to automobiles.”

The article goes on to explore the frequency of certain tags, both user-annotated and machine-generated. The machine tags include factors like time, location, and camera used, suggesting rich material for data analysts to play with. The researchers conclude with praise for their team’s project:

“The collection is one of the largest released for academic use, and it’s incredibly varied—not just in terms of the content shown in the photos and videos, but also the locations where they were taken, the photographers who took them, the tags that were applied, the cameras that were used, etc. The best thing about the dataset is that it is completely free to download by anyone, given that all photos and videos have a Creative Commons license. Whether you are a researcher, a developer, a hobbyist or just plain curious about online photography, the dataset is the best way to study and explore a wide sample of Flickr photos and videos.”

See the article for more details on those tags found within the massive dataset. To download the whole assemblage from Yahoo Labs, click here.

Cynthia Murrell, January 05, 2015

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Yahoo: The Ghosts of Christmas Past

January 2, 2015

I read “The Day Marissa Mayer’s Honeymoon at Yahoo Ended.” The write up did not mention Ms. Mayer’s penchant for arriving late. That’s a plus. The article states:

Why was Mayer throwing away all the goodwill she had earned with a series of policies that were, at best, poorly rolled out and badly explained to employees or, at worst, plain mistakes. They wondered, more seriously than at any time since she joined, if Mayer was actually up for the job of saving Yahoo.

What Ms. Mayer did, however, as many in attendance will recall, was read a children’s book. The article points out:

No one understood what Mayer was trying to say.

The article walks through a number of interesting managerial actions, including the variation on Neutron Jack’s winnowing of the troops in GE’s business units. Yep, he actually yelled in the meeting I had the thrill of attending. He also turned red. I know that fear was part of the method. Did not work for me, however.

The article provides a useful list of Googley actions that used to work at the GOOG. At Yahoo, the shadow of Semel created a different ethos. Resignation? Indifference? I am not sure.

If you want more about missteps, you will be interested in the book the article promotes. Why not advertise on Yahoo?

In my opinion, Yahoo is wending its way to the same fate that befell Lycos. Is there a Marley amongst the Yahooligans?

Stephen E Arnold, January 2, 2015

Will Two Xooglers Burnish Yahoo?

November 12, 2014

I read an exclusive story. Know how I know the story is “exclusive”? Here’s the title:

Exclusive: Some Unhappy Yahoo Investors Asking AOL for Rescue

Obviously you have to read the foundation’s exclusive. I want to focus on a different question: Can two former Google executives repair Yahoo’s revenues? I am less than optimistic. I used an illustration in one of the briefings I did during the era of Terry Semel. The picture featured a sinking ship with Mr. Semel’s face Photoshopped into a captain’s uniform.

As I pointed out years ago, once an Internet portal service loses its momentum, flat-lining is the upside. The downside is a slow, gentle drift into irrelevance. So the answer to the question, in my opinion, is, “Long shot.”

I like to recall Yahoo’s former chief technology officer railing me on a conference call about Yahoo’s super-advanced search technology. How is that working out?

Stephen E Arnold, November 12, 2014

Will Yahoo Oust Its Xoogler?

October 3, 2014

I read “Yahoo Turns to Ad Agencies Amid Calls for Change – Report.” On the surface, Yahoo wants to hire a pod of pros to brush up the Yahoo brand. What ever happened to the Yahooo! crafted by that fellow from Big Bear. I liked that yodel.

But tucked into the wordage was this passage:

Alternative Investment Management & Research, in a letter that said Mayer should consider selling at least a large chunk of Yahoo to Japan-based telecommunications company SoftBank — and allowing that firm’s CEO, Masayoshi Son, to run Yahoo.

That old Google magic does not seem have much of an impact on Alternative Investment Management & Research.

Would Masayoshi Son do a better job with Yahoo?

My hunch is that this type of thought plus others are zipping around the Yahooligan stakeholders. Why not hook up with Xoogler run America Online. That outfit still derives a chunk of its revenues from dial up modems. Do two Xooglers a Warren Buffet make?

Stephen E Arnold, October 4, 2014

Yahoo Kills Its Directory

September 28, 2014

Yahooooo. Remember that sound. Once it was a happy yodel. Soon it will be a howl of agony. The Directory created by the original Yahoos, Messrs. Filo and Yang is to be terminated with extreme prejudice. The top Xoogler has decided I learned in “Yahoo to Shut Down Another Batch of Products as Activist Investor Pushes for AOL Acquisition.” The Directory spawned Web search. Web search spawned online advertising. Online advertising created the environment that killed precision and recall. In 20 years, finding information related to what the user actually wanted arrived and will soon depart.

The article asserts:

Directory, meanwhile, is one of Yahoo’s oldest services. As the name suggests, Directory is basically a directory listing designed to help users find the types of websites they’re looking for. Years ago, services like this were a valuable resource but times have certainly changes and Directory will come to an end on December 31.

My hunch is that Yahoo itself may experience the departure of a senior executive in about the same time frame. And the AOL clarion call? Two aged sparrows do not a peacock make.

Stephen E Arnold, September 28, 2014

Yahoo: Searching for Luck

September 23, 2014

I read “An Insider’s Account of the Yahoo-Alibaba Deal.” I found it interesting. The one factor not mentioned was luck. The write up explains some of the deal context. My hunch is that Yahoo was  in the right place at the right time with Jerry Yang, who hit it off with Alibaba’s founder. Why discount luck in a Harvard Business Review article? Easy. Few MBAs and their ilk want to admit that chance generated a positive payoff.

What about Yahoo in the post Alibaba IPO environment?

According to “Welcome to the Strange, Upside-Down World of Yahoo after the Alibaba IPO,”

According to another analysis, by Nicholas Carlson of Business Insider, the rest of Yahoo really is worth nothing at all, after subtracting its stake in Yahoo Japan (a separate company) and its cash reserves. What this means for Mayer is that she’s in the strange position of running a company whose core business the stock market values at less than zero. Yet she has a pile of cash and a site that is one of the most popular on the Internet, attracting over one billion visitors per month, and generating $4.62 billion in advertising revenue over the last year.

If accurate, Yahoo may need some more of that rarely mentioned key to business success—luck.

Stephen E Arnold, September 23, 2014

Yahoo Concentrates On Local Search

September 10, 2014

One search trend that is proving profitable is local search. Users want search results that correspond to their immediate areas, rather than generic, global results. To cash in this market, “Yahoo Acquires Startup Zofari To Bolster Local Search” says CNet. Zofari is a local search startup that recommends places to visit. Zofari pulls its data from Foursquare and user provider data about what they like, similar to Pandora and Netflix. Zofari even acknowledges these services inspired it.

“The purchase is just one of more than 40 that CEO Marissa Mayer has made since she took the reins at Yahoo more than two years ago, but it’s aligned specifically with the company’s desire to build out its mobile search offerings. The buy comes at a time when Yahoo’s display ad sales — an important financial metric, though becoming less en vogue as users move to mobile devices — fell 7 percent last quarter.”

Mayer has been testing new ways to save Yahoo. She has saved the company from drowning, but it is still flipping about to compete with Google. Yahoo’s problems go deeper than anyone suspected, but acquisitions like Zofari could possibly strengthen it.

Whitney Grace, September 10, 2014
Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

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