OPINION: Yahoo! cares anymore?

Sometimes the most truthful perspectives come from those anonymous online comments that you find underneath news stories.

Shortly after Carol Bartz was ushered in as Yahoo’s new CEO, one online reader remarked that “not even General George Patten could save Yahoo.”

And unfortuntely for the search giant, we tend to agree with that anonymous user.

Whether or not Yahoo ends up making an alliance with Microsoft, the writing has been on the wall at the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based search engine for several years. And while the idea of a search engine giving its search business away is truly ridiculous, Yahoo might as well do it if they’re only concerned about a temporary boost for shareholders.

As worldwide Internet traffic has risen, Yahoo’s traffic has slowly declined.

When we talked to IDC analyst Karsten Weide after the Bartz announcement, he told us that a big challenge for Yahoo would be in sorting out its services portfolio. “Go look at a list of Yahoo’s services and check off the ones you don’t recognize,” he told us.

Ever heard of Bix? What about Yahoo! Briefcase? We haven’t either. Perhaps if we ask the question on Yahoo! Answers, we might actually get a helpful response. Head on over there if you need a laugh.

And the problems for Yahoo will only continue to mount unless it seriously improves its fundamental business, which is online search. Instead of rolling out dozens and dozens of services — which don’t appear to be making much money and actually attract more spambots than real eyeballs — the company might want to try fixing its search experience.

While Yahoo still has its loyal base using its Groups, News, Sports, Finance, and Mail services, none of those offerings will help it gain ground in the search advertising business.

And of course, Google isn’t perfect either, but for our money nobody has a more effective search algorithm right now. There’s a reason “Google” itself has become a verb.

If Yahoo wants to stick around, they will have to be the first thing the average online user thinks about before making a search. It’s going to have to develop a more effective way to find information, in order to get those that jumped ship to Google back.

Yahoo needs to start acting like a search engine and focus its efforts and hiring practices around that. Go out and get better engineers. Generate better search results and an overall better search experience. If you build it, they will come back.

It will certainly take people a lot smarter than us yahoos to figure out what that would require. But we do know that, if Bartz recognizes this and actually focuses the company, the race might not be over in the search game just yet.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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