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