There has been a lot of talk about the recent Microsoft proposal to buy Yahoo. If you look at the commentary being given about by just about anyone with an internet connection on the issue, you would notice that almost everyone thinks that Yahoo should submit and give in to Microsoft.
Everyone but actual developers. At least all the good developers that I’ve talked to who have even the smallest idea of what the world wide web is, think that a web without Yahoo at this stage would be a bad idea. And I agree.
People say that Yahoo has not innovated and Google has. Thats just the effects of Kool-aid. Anyone who has actual knowledge of the scientific community doing work on information retrieval, text/web mining and Human-Computer Interaction, knows that this community is actually pretty open (this video being one of the examples of scientists sharing their findings with others), and scientists regularly like to share their work amongst each other. And contrary to popular belief, Microsoft research as well as Yahoo Research are doing some pretty amazing things. See this, this, this and more if you don’t believe me.
This doesn’t mean that Google is not the best search engine out there currently, because it is. But the margin of their lead is not as big as it is made out to be by the press. Most people are just plain used to Google search, and have a Halo effect regarding it. This makes it extremely difficult to make an argument that any search engine is better than Google. It will be interesting how companies like Powerset will offset this Halo effect. Whatever their stragies will be, I know that it will involve a whole lot of PR and marketing. Simply being technically superior will not give you market share.
The Problem with the Yahoo and Microsoft Merger
Firstly, I don’t think that it is going to be a merger at all. It is an aquisition, plain and simple. I don’t know how many Yahoo employees, especially developers, will be comfortable with the idea of having Microsoft as their boss. Yahoo has been of late been staight up amazing when it comes to promoting open standards and educating everyone about best practices in web development. YUI, YDN and their stance on progressive enhancement has been widely respected. Whereas, Microsoft, especially when it comes to be web, has always been about closed and proprietary standards.
Also, it is a given that eventually (even though it will take a few years), Microsoft would like all Yahoo! properties to be in .net (or whatever new stuff they will come up in the future, like silverlight and stuff). In that case, all the awesome developers who are good in PHP, Perl and other open source technologies, will either have to learn Microsoft’s closed technologies, or just be laid off. If I were a Yahoo developer right now, I would be mighty concerned about the current situation.
It seems that right now, the Yahoo! board might be willing to put on a fight and continue the good fight. I really hope the executives at Yahoo listen to their engineers and developers and not to a bunch of greedy Yahoo shareholders who have no real attachment to the company and who just want to cash out.
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