With two big moves in the past week, Yahoo! has shown a desire to revitalize its image as a tech giant. The moves haven't pleased everyone, but they suggest that Yahoo! may be in the midst of a turnaround.
Yahoo! has been in the midst of a slow, seemingly inevitable death, ever since the dot-com bubble burst in the early 2000s. Since then, Yahoo! has been playing a game of catch-up with other tech powerhouses. Throughout the last few years, CEOs have been recycled, massive layoffs have been levied, and brand loyalty and recognition for the company have tanked. All the while, Yahoo! has been searching for a way to appeal to an excited user base, the youth.
Young people, specifically the 18-24 age demographic (i.e. college kids), are responsible for a great deal of the excitement surrounding tech companies and services. It is thus no surprise that Yahoo!’s board of trustees approved the $1.1 billion acquisition of Tumblr earlier this month. The site boasts an enthusiastic and youthful user base that powers its collection of millions of blogs.
Unfortunately for Yahoo!, what followed Sunday's announcement was a unified groan from the users of the trendy social micro-blogging network in the form of blog posts and crying Kim Kardashian gifs. Tens of thousands of blogs on the site even shut down in protest. Why? Yahoo! isn’t exactly known for nurturing its acquisitions.
Remember GeoCities? Yahoo! paid $6.4 billion for the web-hosting site in 1999 when it was the third most visited site on the web. Now GeoCites is only available in Japan.
What about Flickr? The photo-sharing site, which Yahoo! acquired in 2005 for a reported $35 million, was a major acquisition for the company. But since then, the site’s updates have been minimal and have failed to keep up with the changing online photo-sharing environment.
That was until last Monday’s major update.
Welcome to the beautiful new Flickr. A lot has changed in the ground-up redesign.
The feature that grabbed everyone’s attention is that free users now have access to one terabyte of free photo and video storage on the site. This is big news. Flickr used to throttle users' photo uploading to a monthly limit of 100 megabytes. With the new update, a single user’s account could hold nearly 500,000 iPhone 5-quality photos.
The space is even more valuable because the new Flickr allows photos to be uploaded in full resolution. These photos are arranged in a seamless, more modern design that keeps the focus on the photos and nothing else.
What these updates mean is that for the first time in a while, Yahoo! is actually on the cutting edge. Flickr is now the best option available online for amateur and professional photographers looking to display their portfolios.
Photographers aren't the only ones who should be excited. The biggest news of the week was that Yahoo! purchased Tumblr, and the users of the 109 million Tumblr blogs have reason to be excited – even if they don't know it yet. Yahoo! is gaining a new focus of its principle brands, and is also starting to understand what’s cool again.
Yahoo!’s CEO Marissa Mayer has already said that she wants to “let Tumblr be Tumblr.” This is the best move for Yahoo!, which will benefit a lot from operating alongside a youthful user base that is actually excited about the product.
How positively Tumblr's young users will react to such a corporate presence like Yahoo! remains to be seen. But Mayer's insistence that the site will not see any major changes, at least initiially, should be of some comfort.
Mayer has said she is interested in revisiting Tumblr’s advertising strategies (read: more ads), but isn’t looking to reinvent the site's content, even going as far to say that the NSFW content on Tumblr blogs won’t be going anywhere.
These moves signify a major turning point in the company’s strategy for success. What it proves is that Mayer and the rest of the Yahoo! team have finally come to the realization that they are not the online trendsetters they once were. By sitting back and learning from (and acquiring) successful sites like Tumblr, they can start to build back up their own reputation – especially with young users.