What Yahoo Was…And Could Be Again — GREAT!

 

greatagainowl

Feedback to Quartz on Mark Coatney’s article.

By David Halfpenny

In “Can Tumblr save Yahoo?” I think Mark has struck an absolutely fundamental point: “Yahoo isn’t an editorial entity so much as a venue in which a lot of voices interact. The problem here is that to be a great platform for users, you need to provide a great user experience.”
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Although his focus was Tumblr, coincidentally Mark sums up Yahoo! Groups.
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Yahoo! What?
Since it seems to be a well-kept secret:  Yahoo! Groups has hundreds of millions of users generating a vast archive of content for each other in the daily care of an unpaid yet dedicated moderator team bigger than the Chinese army.
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All these people come to Yahoo! to share the things that excite and concern them, and while they are on-site, their eyeballs are in Yahoo!’s pocket (as it were).
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In Groups, Yahoo has a distinctive world-leading user-magnetic property in which all the work is done for them – apart from actually manning the content data-centres. Or should I say “had”?
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Naturally Yahoo! wanted to monetise this unsung gem, and naturally they wanted a great user platform, so in 2013 they assigned Yahoo! India to re-write the boring old user interface.
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But because Yahoo had long since lost the source code, the keen young development team took a chance and adopted the new doctrine of ‘Coding without a Net’ ie modifying the LIVE product, untested – inflicting bug after bug, day after day, on a massive live audience – from half a world away.
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Over two years later, tranches of functionality remain crippled, most heartbreakingly the godsend facility for blind and partially-sighted users to have Screens of text read out to them.
All this brought a profound backlash from users.
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Millions fled to other platforms to avoid the bugs, while millions more have dropped their usage drastically.
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Huge volumes of daily traffic have shifted to Facebook Groups, which (although pretty Mickey Mouse in functionality by comparison), do actually work.
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When I look down the message stats for my own list of dozens of groups (i.e. thousands of members), most seem to have died on their feet.
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As a moderator, I still have a user core who still have a perfectly good Groups experience. But their trick is to use Groups via email. While they don’t whinge as they never see the wretched interface bugs, they also never click on another Yahoo! property, and never see a single advert!
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Ah yes, the adverts – crass, screen-hogging, annoying – exactly what Ad-Blocking was designed for! In striking contrast to Google adverts, which most people I ask don’t even notice.
So now we now have a vocal Groups community, raging against the hand that feeds them, many hoping against hope that a forthcoming retirement announcement by Marissa will somehow bring back the boring old Interface that worked.
I have a better idea:  recognising the uniqueness and power of Yahoo! Groups and managing it properly along the principles that Mark sets out for Tumblr.
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