Must Read

Whether it’s real or not (and I have no reason to doubt it), Stewart Butterfield’s resignation letter to Yahoo is a must-read.

Microsoft offers to buy Yahoo

The big news this morning is that Microsoft has offered $44.6B to buy Yahoo, the figure representing a 62% premium on the share price at yesterday’s market close. It’s very unclear at this point what will come of this, but as a user I find it hard to see how such a tie-up could be beneficial to me. From my perspective, although MS has done some interesting things on the net, none of their initiatives have been focused on delivering the best quality of user experience or even innovation – their plays have seemed to by cynically based on scaling up so-so experiences and hoping that the brute force of that scale can make them important. What we learn from Google, however, is that though scale is important, it is deeply related to quality and innovation in a way that consumer software never was.

Update: Techcrunch has looked at some of the numbers.

Rumours of Mapquest’s demise were greatly exaggerated

I subscribe to a feed from Hitwise Intelligence, an “online competitive intelligence” firm that publishes traffic analysis on various topics on a blog. Today I found this post by Heather Hopkins: US: Google Maps Making Inroads Against Leader, Mapquest. I was very surprised to learn that not only is Mapquest still a viable site, but it remains the market leader by quite a big (though shrinking) margin over Google Maps and Yahoo! Maps.

It’s surprising because I assumed that Google’s site had long since become the market leader – which it is with pretty much everyone I know. I haven’t heard of anyone using Mapquest in years – and if you go to the site, all you find is the same barely-usable interface and sketchy, jaggedy maps as always, not to mention almost useless search results and a decided lack of actual mapping features.

There are two pretty clear reminders in this case for anyone who works in online marketing: a) the market leader isn’t necessarily who you (as a specialist) assume it is, and b) a site’s market/traffic leadership doesn’t mean that it is the one to emulate. I guess incumbency status really is important, even on the net.

Yahoo’s Life – Already Irrelevant?

At the huge CES event in Las Vegas yesterday Yahoo revealed further information about their next step into social networks. Michael Arrington has a good overview: Here Comes Yahoo Live, I Mean Yahoo Life. Basically it’s some kind of mashup between Yahoo Mail and Maps with some third-party widget exposure/access built in.

The problem for Yahoo, as far as I can tell, is that piecemeal things like this are simply not comprehensive enough for anyone to really take them seriously. Yahoo already has a lot of great elements that it could leverage into a social media strategy, and the fact that they aren’t even at the table (as far as anyone can tell) indicates simply that Yahoo is either a) hedging their bets far more than they should, or b) too siloed an organization to pull its own pieces together effectively. Either way, they won’t likely achieve a whole lot until they solve one problem or the other.

In other words, Flickr is smaller than Facebook and MySpace, but nevertheless it is still one of the best-of-breed social networks on the web, and until Yahoo can demonstrate that it can (and will) marshal its own properties, their social network strategy is likely to be a disappointment.

I still miss Earlier: April 27, 2006, September 2, 2005, June 14, 2005.

New from Yahoo:

Pipes: Rewire the web. Start with any of the structured data on the web, put it together with other data, and get something new and interesting out the other end. Whatever problems Yahoo! may have, it’s clear they are still among the leaders.

Yahoo! is widely considered

a star of “the new internet” and rightly so for many reasons. But it’s purchase and seeming mothballing of the wonderful service is not one of them. Like many people, I use an RSS aggregator for my bulk blog-reading needs – but that does not in any way make redundant. If I need to read a site for the text only, an RSS reader is great, but it still doesn’t replace the experience of reading in a browser – and I haven’t yet met an RSS reader that works as a simple notifier. But I’ve written about all of this before.

What’s amazing is that since last summer when the service effectively became only marginally usable, there has been no information forthcoming from Yahoo! or any of its notable bloggers about what’s happening with the service. If it’s going to live, I would think that a short word to that effect would be quite useful – if it’s going to die, then just kill it already.

I also want to ask: is there an alternative? Can any RSS reader be configured to store a simple list of recently updated sites and not present the posts themselves and everything but just a link to the front of the blog that has been updated? What options are there to duplicate this dying service? And am I crazy for wishing there were?

Another big piece of news

in the last few days was the acquisition of by Yahoo! that was announced on Friday.

At the Social Software Weblog

I found (well, found it and then I went and read it too) the first intelligent, non-reactionary response to the Flickr/Yahoo sign-in flap: Flickr and Yahoo: please support open identity standards.

I still wonder where the FAQ is about the change…

Is anyone who reads still using the update service? Since Yahoo! took over I have noticed some strange problems, and I wonder if anyone else has noticed them. First, every so often refreshes and the site names with apostophes are rendered incorrectly using escape codes. Also, and more importantly, I see a lot of “ghost” updates, by which I mean a site listed that has not really updated. I know that it happens spontaneously, because it lists my site as having been updated when nothing has changed.

Can anyone shed any light on what’s going on?