Lessons from the trials and tribulations of Yahoo

By September 25, 2009 2 Comments


Techcrunch wrote yesterday about Yahoo’s recent change of the Flickr logo and the other problems they have been having with  the site.  Collectively they show both the challenges of acquiring successful web communities in general and that Yahoo in particular still doesn’t understand how to manage a web2.0 property.

First the rebranding – all Yahoo did was add the ‘from Yahoo!’ that you can see in the picture to the existing Flickr logo.  Not too much to ask after owning the company for over four years you might think, but Flickr users reacted very badly, mostly because they don’t like Yahoo.  According to TC they complained on forums about Yahoo being stale and the logo being ugly.

These complaints illustrate the challenge in acquiring companies which are based on communities – unlike just about all other businesses the customers have a strong feeling of ownership which limits what you can do post acquisition – including your ability to wring out synergies, in this case at the branding level.  You may remember a similar furore when Yahoo tried to move Flickr users onto Yahoo IDs. 

Secondly, the Yahoo specific stuff.  One of the reasons that Flickr users don’t like Yahoo is that they don’t seem to understand what are probably best described as some of the key tenets of web2.0 – that you have to be open, transparent, balance your needs with that of your community and not be too high handed.  Yahoo got just about all these things wrong in a recent incident described on TC as follows:

Yahoo also got into a bit of a sticky situation with users when it removed a photoshopped image posted on Flickr of President Barack Obama that makes him look like the Heath Ledger (Joker) character from The Dark Knight. Flickr took the image down, citing a DMCA notice, adding that “We very much value freedom of speech and creativity.” Thomas Hawk had a good overview of all the gory details.

Strangely, the company not only took down the image, but also removed the Flickr page and comments, even though this isn’t required by the DMCA. And then, in what was a totally contradictory move, Yahoo shut down the forum discussions about the political controversy, cutting off further political discourse about the image.

These are examples of a general phenomena that we have talked about before – in community based businesses customers have a stronger than usual control over strategy.  UK football clubs are a good offline example of this.

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