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Missions & Visions & Actions

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In Missions and Visions, John Battelle talks with Jeff Weiner, who I've introduced at conferences in the past as Yahoo's search czar, about Yahoo Search's vision and mission statements. They are:

  • Vision: To enable people to find, use, share, and expand all human knowledge.
  • Mission: To provide the world's most valued and trusted search service.

John briefly compares to the Google mission statement, which is:

  • Mission: To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible.

Statements are all very nice, but I guess I'm more into actions. Despite Google's mission statement, things like Blogger, Google Groups and AdSense have nothing to do with search and organizing the web's information, as I and others have written in the past. Some past things from me:

On Blogger, from 2003:

Google has long said it has no intention of becoming a portal, but so far, it's hard not to see the acquisition of Blogger as adding a portal feature in the same way that Yahoo did when it bought GeoCities. We'll almost certainly see an eventual option from the Google home page inviting visitors to create their own weblogs using Blogger. It will be discrete. It won't get in the way of searching at Google. Yet, it will have nothing to do with search, a giant departure for the company.

On AdSense, from 2003:

I've seen some posts from those discussing Google's move into contextual ads as saying this shows the company is no longer solely about search, which it always said it would be. That's a fair assessment. Google's entry into the contextual ad space has given it an advertising network product that is independent of search. In other words, there's no "search" reason to explain why Google needs to place its ads on web pages.

Businesswise, there's a good reason. Google has to stay competitive. If Google's competitors are expanding their search-oriented paid listings into the contextual space, then Google needs to do it as well, in order to please both advertisers and portal partners.

In short, Google has famously painted itself into corner with its oft-issued statements of "we'll be focused on search." Now, for business reasons, it's being forced to walk across that wet floor.

On Google Groups, from 2004:

The addition of mailing lists sees Google adding yet another feature that seemingly has little to do with search and more to do with tying users to its service and increasing its ad distribution....

....Now the new free mailing list feature, while useful and welcomed, seems like another move to add another sticky portal feature.

Indeed, Yahoo Groups exists because way back in 1998, they were created (and then called Yahoo Clubs) as part of the race to add portal features and capture users. Mailing list capabilities came as part of Yahoo's later acquisition in 2000 of eGroups for $428 million in stock.

Now as Google's competitors are fighting to win users in the current search wars, Google Groups 2, like Gmail and Blogger before it, seems a way for Google to strike back at the portal features that some (see Forrester and Moreover) mistakenly assumed it would be weak on or missed buying.

So despite it's mission, Google does several things that have nothing to do with organizing the web's information. AdSense the biggest standout. Of course, it helps FUND organizing the web's information. It is also helps fund polluting the web's information.

How about those Yahoo statements? If the goal is to provide the world's most trusted search service, then Yahoo needs to stop dragging its feet on better disclosing paid inclusion. Going Beyond FTC Paid Inclusion Disclosure Guidelines from me from last year goes into more details on this.


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