Resignations Signal Generational Change at Apache Foundation
Why Gnome 2 Continues to Win the Desktop Popularity Contest
Where Open Hardware Is Today
Writing in Style With LibreOffice
Huawei and Other Mobile 'Tech Giants': You Should (Really) Break Free from Google/Android
October 5th, 2016

FU Yahoo!

It appears as if Yahoo has become the pet rodent of the U.S. spooks. To paraphrase: A rat by any other name…

Op-ed

If I were Verizon, I’d be going over my agreement to purchase Yahoo with a fine tooth comb, looking for a way to weasel out of the deal. If I couldn’t find one, after going through with the purchase I’d quietly shut the site down and take a loss on the whole thing. Yahoo has no value anymore, not as a portal nor as a brand.

Yahoo logoThe value it once had as the main intersection on the Internet is long gone, despite the fact that the site still commands enough traffic to make it the fifth most visited site on the web. The trouble is, that traffic isn’t arriving through the front door anymore, and visitors aren’t sticking around for more than a minute or two. People no longer visit the site to use all of the nifty features Yahoo once offered, because the majority of those features are long gone. Instead, these days Yahoo’s users come through the back door, either to use Yahoo Mail or to read a news article — usually a reprint from another site — after being directed to the URL by Google.

Until this week the company retained something of a value as a brand, even if that value was rapidly decreasing. Although the site no longer offers much of anything other than news and its mail service — both being services that are readily available elsewhere — it was a brand that was as much a household name as GE, Proctor and Gamble, or McDonald’s. Figuring out how to monetize the brand has been the rub, as the company hasn’t offered users a reason to visit the site other than for regurgitated news and mail for more than a decade.

Gone are the days of the DIY webpage service GeoCities, lost to Myspace which in turn was done in by Facebook. Gone is online storage with Briefcase, lost to Google Docs, Dropbox and the like. Yahoo Search is still around, but made totally irrelevant by Google and alternative search sites such as Duck Duck Go. Yahoo Mail also still survives, although dwarfed by Gmail. So much is gone that it’s hard to remember why there was a time when Yahoo was the browser homepage of many Internet users.

What little value left in the Yahoo brand has now been completely destroyed, or so it would seem. The company has either jinxed its last chance to take Verizon’s money and run (if the wireless carrier drops the deal), or Verizon’s bargain basement purchase has turned out to be not such a sweet deal after all.

The security scare that surfaced about two weeks ago after it was revealed that information on about 500 million Yahoo users had been compromised was bad enough. Even worse was the fact that the compromise began in 2014, with word just now being revealed. The bullet in the head was the revelation Wednesday by Reuters that in 2015 the company evidently searched through its customers incoming emails, spying for either the NSA or the FBI.

With that news, any nostalgia I had left for the brand completely disappeared. As far as I’m concerned, the site can now completely disappear from the Internet and I won’t feel so much as a twinge of regret that it’s gone. I can forgive the type of incompetence that led to the big breach, but I can’t forgive a website that betrays the trust of its users.

On Tuesday, just hours after Reuters published its exclusive story on Yahoo’s cooperation with our spymasters, the Electronic Frontier Foundation called the incident “the next front in the fight against mass surveillance.”

The EFF article concluded by saying “this is a perfect example of why we need to reform Section 702 and rein in the NSA’s mass surveillance programs. Absent such reform, Congress must not reauthorize Section 702 when it expires at the end of next year.”

Amen to that.

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

8 comments to FU Yahoo!

  • Al Nonymous

    I love and agree with your sentiments, but I wish you would learn the difference between “its” and “it’s.”

    It’s embarrassing that a journalist of your credentials and experience would consistently stub your toe publicly on that one.

  • I know the difference, of course, but my fingers sometimes betray me. And as any writer/editor will tell you, it’s difficult to catch things like that when you’re editing your own work, because you know what you think you wrote. 🙂 Thanks for the heads up. I’ll find and fix.

  • As a Firefox user, one thing I’m worried about is how this will affect their deal with Mozilla.

  • Al Nonymous

    Yeah, you’re right, Christine. I have to read my stuff out loud before I catch some of those things — and, even then, I don’t *always* catch them. 😉

  • Bernardo Verda

    Isn’t Verizon the ISP that had special, off-limits rooms in their facilities where they mirrored all internet traffic for the convenience of the NSA?

    I don’t think Yahoo!’s NSA peccadilloes are going to bother Verizon very much, if at all — sounds like the usual “corporate culture” conflicts will be minimal.

  • UPS

    Or in another words they try to lower the price…

    Guys are YO funny or what?

  • Juan

    Well… Yahoo did it best for the last 15 years to lose me.

    Destroyed their portal which was full of useful stuff you could arrange at your choosing. You could come in and have your relevant information there: stocks, news, emails. Gone

    Geocities, which they never figured out, got sent into oblivion.

    Then web storage which in those days came in handy for College to move files, gone!

    Then they tried to do a webmail interface which never worked for me, I just kept using the old web interface after I could not longer get it to connect to Thunderbird. But their spam management was a mess so I ended switching to Gmail.

    I kept the account, but many years ago I even deleted all contacts I had, it became my disposable email account (same as with my old hotmail account). I basically never read those.

    And I kept them because the Yahoo and Hotmail Messengers required them. For years they both did their best to keep pidgin from connecting while slowly Gtalk got my contacts and latter whatsapp.

    Then, new YMessenger and pidgin will not work anymore, guess what, I haven’t connected back since which ever I still had there had already moved to Whatsapp or plain Gtalk (and some other contacts I have them running on a Ejabberd server)

    And with this last bit of information the time has come to just plainly close the account, after I think 20 years of having it?

    I guess that is the only reason I still have it: nostalgia

  • @Bernardo Verda: It’s not about security, it’s about reputation. If customers don’t remember Verizon’s spying but do remember Yahoo’s, then that could turn Yahoo from an asset for Verizon into a liability.