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Yahoo! starts beefing up

Posted on Thursday, Jul 28th 2005

Yahoo is wooing IBM technical talent, reports the New York Times.

Beginning in the mid-1990’s, the researchers at I.B.M. spent several years developing an Internet search engine, called Clever, employing a series of algorithms to improve the quality of the retrieval results. While that project has concluded, the I.B.M. researchers have continued other work in the field.

Prabhakar Raghavan joined Yahoo last week as head of research. Prabhakar Raghavan, a computer scientist who once led the Clever effort, joined Yahoo last week as head of research. He left I.B.M. in 2000 to become a vice president and chief scientist at Verity, a maker of search and retrieval software for corporations; he was later named chief technical officer.

Yahoo said that another search-technology researcher, Andrew Tomkins, had recently been landed from I.B.M., and that negotiations were under way with several others there. Yahoo executives said they expected more hiring.

In an effort to compete with the hype-prone Google and it myth about extraordinary innovation absorption capacity, Yahoo is now doing its own army building in the technology realm.

The other area, however, where Yahoo stands to gain a great deal of mileage by cleaning up, is Usability. It looks like that opportunity is not going unnoticed, either:

So far, Google has received much of the attention for its ability to consume impressive numbers of new Ph.D.’s to fuel its research projects. But Yahoo has recently joined in the arms race and is hiring high-profile researchers, including Larry Tesler, an Apple Computer veteran who recently went to work at Yahoo’s headquarters here. Mr. Tesler, a pioneer in user-interface design, is focusing on the usability of Yahoo software.

Between Yahoo and Google, I still like the former, despite the latter’s sky-high stock prices and current halo-effect. Long time back, Microsoft won against IBM and Apple (and many others) with a Fast-Second strategy. Yahoo may not be at the fore-front of innovation anymore, but some of the properties they have – especially My Yahoo! , Yahoo! Groups, and HotJobs – could be interesting leverages, IF they spend the cycles to figure out how to take those to their true potential.

Now, with the focus on better technology and usability, they can, if they augment Product Marketing next.

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