Yahoo Does Want To Be The Leading Search Engine

Are you kidding?! at the Yahoo Search Blog has Yahoo giving the official word that they do want to be the leader in search:

We thought it made sense to briefly recap how focused we are in search and our passion to be the world's leading search engine

The post goes on to talk about the technology Yahoo's acquired and built, the smart group of people they have behind that (and they are smart), ways Yahoo's trying to innovate especially in the social space and how Yahoo's reaching out to developers.

The post was sparked after much commentary erupted following the news that Yahoo's CFO Susan Decker was quoted as saying the company didn't have as a goal to be number one in internet search.

Some pushback came that Decker's quote was somehow taken out of context. I disagree. Let's look at it again:

"We don't think it's reasonable to assume we're going to gain a lot of share from Google," Chief Financial Officer Susan Decker said in an interview. "It's not our goal to be No. 1 in Internet search. We would be very happy to maintain our market share."

I thought the context was perfectly clear. Yahoo doesn't expect to take market share away from Google. As I wrote in my piece yesterday, that's not the same as saying they don't want to be number one in search quality, that they don't care about search or had given up on search. It was actually a fairly honest assessment, aimed at investing types that Yahoo isn't advising that they are going to pull many people away from their Google habit.

In other words, get off our backs about the comScore/NetRatings/Hitwise whatever stats you just got sent. They aren't going to change much (nor as I posted yesterday, have they).

Perhaps Decker went on further in the interview to talk more about Yahoo being committed to search in other ways. But I talked with the Bloomberg reporter for some time about the interview he'd conducted. It didn't sound like that aspect came up or was somehow cut-off from what he wrote. Importantly, the Yahoo Search Blog itself hasn't offered this up as explanation. If Decker or Yahoo felt the comments were taken out of context, that would have been in the Yahoo Search Blog post.

In short, I think Decker's comments were clear. Although they were about marketshare, that unfortunately does spill over into commitment overall, as I wrote yesterday. The commentary and discussion that erupted over the comments was warranted, though some of the headlines I saw were definitely over the top.

I was planning to do a "How About Some Love For Yahoo" post especially in reaction to comments by Yahoo's Jeremy Zawodny and Caterina Fake, both of whom are involved in the frontline battle for searchers that Yahoo's waging. These people are dedicated, involved and have no intention to be number two in anything, as you can read in their posts. And they, like others at Yahoo, are doing all the things that the Yahoo Search Blog covers and more.

Goodness knows I've been dubious about social search and tagging. But that's more from trying to stress that it's a partial solution to improving search rather than the total solution some assume. Yahoo's being extremely innovative in this area, and that's a strength. They are smart in other ways, as well. Aside from that, they are an excellent search engine overall. Heck, they won as Outstanding Search Service from us last year. I certainly don't want them aiming for number two. I want them to be challenging Google full-force, because that type of competition means both Google and Yahoo will be better.

On the front lines, I know they're battling hard. Then generals above them need to ensure they're delivering the right message to support those troops. That doesn't mean lie or be unrealistic. Don't tell the financial markets you'll steal Google's market share away. But yes, if search is a major part of your service, you really should have it as your goal to be number one in market share. You shouldn't be "very happy" to maintain what you've got. You should be happy to maintain what you have, explain it will be a tough battle to gain more, but that ultimately you'd like to see that happen in the long term.

Want to comment or discuss? Visit our Search Engine Watch Forums thread, Yahoo: We're OK Being Number Two.