Marissa Mayer, Yahoo!, and the Google effect

by: Nate SwannerMay 28, 2013

Marissa Mayer

When Marissa Mayer took over as CEO of Yahoo!, it was a catalyst for change. Having lost their way long ago, the former champions of search were in desperate need of transformation. With Meyers at the helm, the Yahoo! ship is now changing direction, but to what end? If all their recent moves (and rumored acquisitions) are any indication, Yahoo! may not want to be Yahoo! for much longer.

Where Yahoo! went wrong

Yahoo! was founded in 1994 by college friends Jerry Yang and David Filo. The goal was to give the internet a little structure, and focus, by organizing search results. In a time of Ask Jeeves, Lycos, and Netscape, Yahoo! was a refreshingly straightforward approach. It was easier on the eyes, gave better results, and later lumped in services like email to make it the first one-stop internet portal for many of us.

Over time, the sizable number of acquisitions by Yahoo! clouded the focus it began with. A company that started with such a simple concept soon found itself bloated, broke, and bartering for survival. Spending money to make money is not new thinking, but Yahoo! only got half of that right. Acquisitions that were later shelved or shuttered left Yahoo! with no return on investment, and the added bulk only served to weigh them down when they could least afford it.

The advent of Google, with their incredible search algorithm, left Yahoo! in another bind. Like any search engine ir web portal, Yahoo! relies on selling advertising space for much of their revenue. Even with a 3 year jump on Google, Yahoo! was caught off guard by Larry and Sergey. The two companies were on a different arc, with Google breaking ground on an empire, and Yahoo! digging through the rubble of theirs.

Google staff

Number 20

Mayer has the distinction of being employee number 20 at Google, as well as its first female engineer. Mayer was instrumental in many key services like GMail and Search, famously keeping the Google landing page subtle. She seemed to be everything a company could hope for: beautiful, bright, and bold. There was, however, a point in which she reached waters at Google she couldn’t navigate successfully.

Schmidt, Page, and the management shakeup

While Larry Page and Sergey Brin were finding their way within Google, Eric Schmidt was the defacto “adult supervision”. A tried and true CEO, Schmidt had a very vanilla way of organizing the company. The structure suited Mayer, and left her with a very clear and concise trajectory to follow in her quest for greatness.

As Schmidt moved away from the helm, and Page regained control, the Google universe shifted. The new CEO, a founder along with Brin, had a very clear idea on what Google should be. As with many management shifts, the structure changed. Schmidt, for instance, had an oversight committee, which Page almost immediately disbanded. That committee, which Mayer sat on, had a direct hand in the direction of perhaps the largest tech company ever. As Page disbanded the committee, a chain of events began, throwing Mayer’s future at Google into uncertainty.

Marissa Mayer

Mayer the climber

Marissa Mayer is an ambitious woman. For someone with a drive like hers, simply being a cog in the wheel isn’t good enough. With the oversight committee being dissolved, and her being passed up for one of several open Senior Vice President spots after the Page regime began, Mayer’s direction fell prey to the fog of corporate war. She went from a beloved figure to embattled talent in very little time.

She was well suited for any SVP position in the company, having held so many key roles and been instrumental in so much of Google’s early success. Mayer was now increasingly unavailable and unseen, whereas she was once the darling of Google. While the real reasons are not known, her role was increasingly diminishing at Google. No promotion, no committee, and no public face time. She was being relegated to simply being employee number 20, and that clearly didn’t suit her. She said all the right things about her role at Google, but the fire was still burning. She wanted, and maybe needed, more.

  • mjolnirxz

    I really enjoyed this article, thanks. I also hope Yahoo! would do better, as much as I love Google, competition is always good

  • idontusuallycommentbut

    Good read!

  • Interesting read. Thanks

  • gommer strike

    She’s beautiful. I’m sorry guys, but that’s how I feel.

    • levin

      if that’s the case, yahoo can put her photos in their front page.
      I’m sure it will increase traffic :D

  • Piyush

    yahoo became sleeping giant due to bad managment in corporation , but now she is trying to wake it up.

  • End in sight

    Yahoo will fizzle out over time. They are slowly dying and I for one say good riddance. Most firms die eventually, and some take a long time to do so. Yahoo should die quicker.

    Mayer is a winner and she wants to be in a winning company. She had that chance at Google and she’ll only stay at Yahoo as long she feels she can make it win. Once she realizes that there is no way to revive the dead-end firm she now works for, she will resign.

  • Great article! Small mistake though in the second line: “With Meyers at the helm…”

  • Rooney-

    OMG!!! Yahoo is still alive!! Let me google about it!

  • First of all Page doesn’t need to go to war with Yahoo since Yahoo already lost long ago. Secondly, if there was any big future in Tumblr and Hulu Google would have bought it already. This is not the direction the internet is going. Tumblr will continue to work well but never expand. Hulu could expand but can’t. The name is synonyms with a phrase: “this content is unavailable from your location”. Which is everywhere except the US. Bringing that content in full to the rest of the world, on a same scale is an impossible mission. I just see a woman that tried to be a captain of a ship she didn’t own. Safe bet would be that she will continue with her practice of trying to bite of more then she chew. Regina Dugan, now that’s a lady worth writing an article about.

  • APai

    she sure did screw flickr. Flickr would have been best standalone, for a while it was okay, then it stagnated. with mayer – it just went to the dogs.