In the search engine battle, from a historical standpoint, Google has come out as the undeniable winner. This week we were curious to know more about these two gigantic tech companies' history and trajectory and here’s what we learned.
Before Yahoo! and Google, there were Archie, CERN, and Jumpstation
In 1990, just one year after the invention of the world wide web (www), we were introduced to Archie. Archie was a centralized way to find information online by crawling through an index of downloadable files.
Soon after Archie, we welcomed CERN, Jumpstation, AOL, Yahoo!, and Google. Each one of these platforms offered us their tweaked idea of what a search engine could be.
In only four years (1990-1994) we went from Archie, that could only make the listings but not the content available, to Yahoo!, which was the very first website able to offer their users a collection of pages and not only data.
The rise of Yahoo!
In early 1994 Jerry Yang and David Filo, two graduate students from Stanford University, created Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web, which was a collection of their favorite websites.
Months later, as their website grew in popularity, they renamed it YAHOO which stands for Yet Another Hierarchically Organized Oracle. Less than a year later the domain name yahoo.com was created and in two years they raised $33.8m after going public.
On “ How Jerry's guide to the world wide web became Yahoo” Andrew Clark writes:
"Throughout the rest of the decade, Yahoo was the undisputed leader on internet portals. When the company went public in 1996, its shares rocketed by 154% in a day and within three years, Yang and Filo were worth $8bn each. Things were going like a dream - until a little known private competitor called Google came along".
By the end of the decade, Yahoo! had positioned itself as a media company and acquired Rocketmail, ClassicGames.com, Yoyodyne Entertainment, and GeoCities. Their stocks hit an all-time high of $108/share in January 2000 and unlike many other tech companies, they managed to survive the Doc-com frenzy.
The new kids on the block
While Yahoo! enjoyed its position as the most popular website and search engine in the United States, Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin were working on a tech company of their own. Their search engine, created out of their dorm room, was called Backrub and later, Google. Their mission was “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.
In the year 2000 Yahoo and Google signed an agreement to allow Google’s search engine to power Yahoo’s web search. However, that partnership ended when Yahoo dropped Google and returned to using its own technology to power its search engine capabilities.
While many companies, including Yahoo, were letting talent go when the Dot-com bubble burst, Google quickly started to gain traction by hiring those same talents laid off by the other Silicon Valley tech companies at great rates.
Google was the upstart - but it executed so quickly and so successfully that it left the other companies behind.
A force to be reckoned with
Company culture also played a huge part in Google’s becoming a search engine giant. They refused to operate pop-ups and ads form sites they considered to be negative for a very long time.
"More sophisticated techies came to appreciate Google's computational elegance and its willingness to shun the "portal" model that crammed ecommerce down their throats. Within months, Google became one of the most popular sites on the Web - and not long after that, "Google" became a verb." (Josh McHugh on Google vs. Evil)
While Google was engineering the Google File System, which would function as a platform that could serve a diverse range of use cases for all the services Google would offer as part of its future ecosystem, Yahoo persisted in its strategy of acquiring different businesses and services. At the same time, it was laying off thousands of employees around the globe.
Less than two weeks after Google’s Alphabet became the world’s most valuable public company, Yahoo put its core business up for sale. While its search engine, advertising, apps, and maps, Android and YouTube remained under Google, all of the company’s other ventures became separate firms under Alphabet.
Mission and Identity
Google’s message and identity have been clear from the beginning. As it’s stated on their website “Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
This message is front and center in the company’s about page, internal communications and has been described by the company's employees as a guiding principle behind everything they do.
Yahoo! on the other hand, has changed its mission statement several times in the course of its existence. Their website lacks a mission statement and my attempts to find an updated statement were time-consuming. Here’s what I found from indirect sources:
As a leader in global daily habits like email, entertainment, news and sports, we strive to inspire, delight and entertain. By infusing our products with beauty and personality driven by our users, every Yahoo experience feels made to order.
According to a researcher who tracked Yahoo’s press releases, they have changed their mission statement over 24 times in 24 years. It’s clear that Google has nailed its brand strategy while Yahoo got somewhat sidetracked.
Vision and fate
When Google decided to incorporate Alphabet, Larry Page explained that while they’ve “(...) long believed that over time companies tend to get comfortable doing the same thing, just making incremental changes. But in the technology industry, where revolutionary ideas drive the next big growth areas, you need to be a bit uncomfortable to stay relevant”. With Alphabet, they could prompt innovation in other areas without interfering with the vision and mission of Google’s main products.
Yahoo’s executives Marissa Meyer’s description of her vision for the company’s future paints a completely different stance when it comes to steering the company to remain competitive:
"As digital content becomes richer, as search and mail become richer, we need to change what the format of that guide is, as we move to mobile, wearables, TVs, cars, and all the other formats in the future. So to have great SEO Services, we’re focused on search, communications, and digital content, all of which we think are incredibly important parts of that role as a guide, and those are the products that we’re investing in and building on. "
While Google has been clear of its mission and vision throughout time, Yahoo has often been reactive to environmental changes int the tech world. After our research, it’s become clear that Yahoo’s lack of a clear mission has made it difficult for clients to understand the brand’s positioning and Google was not only an alternative but one with a clear purpose and that delivered on their promises.
Written by Dani Rodrigues @ Ingols Digital Small Business Listener! Partner at Ingols Digital @ingolsdigital and Ingols Imports.
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