The only thing that can save Yahoo is a ham radio that talks with the year 1999

[Note: This post includes spoilers related to a 12-year old movie you’ll probably never see, if you haven’t already.]

With each new backwards somersault in the never-ending dive of Yahoo! into the abyss, I keep remembering the first movie I can recall that included an internet startup’s business success in the story line.

It was the Dennis Quaid film that came out in the year 2000, Frequency. It was a, hmm, science fiction, time travel, alternative history, kind of movie that revolved around the easily believable premise that Quaid’s son, as an adult in the year 2000, could use a ham radio to talk with his father who was living back in the year, 1970. Apparently, if you understand how sun spots work, you’ll find this premise very plausible (if you live in Hollywood).

Quaid’s son used this time-warping communication power to warn his fireman father that, unless he watched out, he would die in a fire the following night (convenient timing for that sun spot, no?) After that worked out, Quaid’s son told him how to keep his wife’s (the son’s mother) from being murdered. If you’ve read the most recent Stephen King novel, 11/22/63, you’ll understand why you shouldn’t go around messing with history next time you have the chance to travel back in time and fix something that needs fixing. But in the movie Frequency, everything works out just fine.

Indeed, things work out so fine in Frequency, that Quaid’s son not only saves the lives of his father and mother, he tells his dad to inform Gordo, the best friend of the son, to remember the word “Yahoo” when he grows up.

So Gordo, grows up and invests early in Yahoo! and in the year, 2000, Gordo’s Yahoo! stock has made him rich. So rich, that at the end of the film, there is a feel-good scene during which an old Dennis Quaid and his wife are playing softball and a foul ball busts the headlight of Gordo’s Mercedes — and we get to marvel at how rich Gordo is, as we see his New York vainty car tag enscribed with Yahoo 1.

It’s hard to believe today, but back in Bubble 1.0, the term “Yahoo!” didn’t just mean, Internet startup, it was the internet company that had become the pervasive pop-culture metaphor for “getting rich.”

But then…

Almost at the precise moment the film Frequency came out, the pop culture meaning of Yahoo! started a journey that would reposition the company’s brand to mean pretty much anything but getting rich. Or being smart. Or being anything, but “formerly important.”

If Frequency were to be remade, Dennis Quaid’s son would be telling his son to dump Yahoo! the day after the softball game.

Bookmark this, Yahoo!

I’ve been offline for much of the past 24 hours, so, except for a tweet or two, I haven’t weighed in on the news that Yahoo! is, well, I’m not quite sure, but whatever it is, owning the social bookmarking service Delicious.com won’t be a part of it.

Apparently, news leaked (news leaks when you lay-off hundreds of employees, I hear) yesterday that could be interpreted to mean any number of things about the future of Delicious. “Shuttering” was the most-often-used word in those early rumors. And, with no official response from Yahoo! when the story broke, anyone with a rumor or theory or sad essay could define the news. So, as the guiding light of the RexBlog, Osmo Wiio, says in #2 of his laws of communication, “If a message can be interpreted in several ways, it will be interpreted in a manner that maximizes the damage.” (Or in the original Finnish, “Jos sanoma voidaan tulkita eri tavoin, niin se tulkitaan tavalla, josta on eniten vahinkoa.”)

Late today, more than 24 hours later, the official Yahoo! response came with this Delicious.com blog post, that contains, quite clearly, everything they needed to say 24 hours ago, but didn’t — thus, it doesn’t matter.

Danny Sullivan provides all the X’s and O’s on how Yahoo! bungled the handling of this and how the morons left running Yahoo! are, amazingly, clueless about the new realities of the way the web works. Which is ironic. Because, Delicious.com was one of the early “first order” social media developments that created the “adjacent possible” of pretty much everything you see where a “Like” or “Share” button appears.* If it weren’t so sad and tragic, it might be humorous. But there’s nothing funny about it. The people who “run” Yahoo!, like those who run so many other large organizations or institutions, are obviously incapable of comprehending the hidden value of little stuff.

Here’s what I mean: Delicious (or, as it was called back then, Del.icio.us) was the first “social bookmarking” service that gained a big following among early bloggers. Early bloggers (and I believe setting up this blog in 1999 and blogging since 2000 places me in that group) discovered that providing hyperlinks with a sentence or two of commentary was a helpful gesture that took hardly any time and was greatly appreciated (e.g., generated traffic). While you can say, Delicious was a social bookmarking service, another way to view it was as a first-order micro-blogging platform. I loved, and still love, the purity of Delicious. It was one-click for doing one-thing. But it did so with great elegance. And here’s what it provided: The ability to collect and organize and comment-on hyperlinks and to then (this is the important part) generate multiple RSS feeds from that link you created.

Now, break that down and you can see similarities to just about everything that has come since then, ranging from WordPress to Twitter — just with variations.** And, if Yahoo hadn’t stumbled-away the future on search, we would be saying that Delicious provided the foundation on which they built their first-generation real-time social-search tool (which, just to make it clear, they didn’t).

Selling (you’ll be shocked how much they’ll receive if they chose that route***) or turning it into an open-source project (not likely), are ways Yahoo! can “shed” Delicious. Pulling the plug on it woud be stupid, even for those left running Yahoo! as part of Yahoo’s on-going success is 100% dependent on users storing all sorts of information on their corner of “the cloud.” The notion they would pull the plug on years of someone’s bookmarks is ludicrous, even for the yahoos running Yahoo, as the first thing it would do is make us start seriously considering the future of those photos we pay to store on Flickr.

*This WSJ.com essay by Steve Johnson, and his book, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, use the work of theoretical biologist Stuart Kauffman regarding molecular evolution as a metaphor to explain how advances in technology, industry and other arenas develop as the result of a preceding “first-order” idea.

**See Dave Winer’s post, “How Twitter and Del.icio.us are Alike.

***If, as some would argue, hyperlinks are the currency and soul of the web, it would, ipso facto, stand to reason a database collection of tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of tagged, categorized and ranked hyperlinks  would have great value.

Yahoo! direct mail un-tubing

A few months ago, I shared how Google used “good old fashioned” paper-based direct-mail advertising delivered via the U.S. Postal Service in its “marketing mix.” Yes, Google, the web-advertising juggernaut actually uses “non-internet” advertising approaches to build its brand and help sell its services. (And, unlike some people believe, they also have a huge army of sales people.)

That post was written when Google ran its first Superbowl ad (quick, you remember that ad, don’t you?) and to augment the comprehensive retrospective of Google’s past use of traditional advertising written by Danny Sullivan. The point, of course: Great marketers like Google don’t limit themselves to one form of media or one channel.

Since I posted those earlier Google direct mailings, I thought I should also take some photos (with my iPhone 4 for those who care about such details) of a mailing our company received yesterday from Yahoo! promoting its advertising solutions for businesses.

As with Google’s efforts, this isn’t a review. I don’t think either company changed any behavior on our part.

Dear Yahoo! Fire Eagle – the flaming thumbtack is already taken

Today, Yahoo! announced the release of Fire Eagle, a service that, according to Search Engine Land, “is intended to be something of a ‘clearinghouse’ or ‘switchboard’ for location and help users ‘manage location’ across the internet and on mobile applications.”

Those of you who know what this means, raise your hands. Okay. That’s what I thought. Actually, I’m not blogging about what the service does. I’m blogging about Fire Eagle’s logo. I’m outraged! Yahoo! would infringe on the Tennessee Titans’ famed “flaming thumbtack” logo. While I’m sure that Yahoo!’s designer intentionally meant to make their logo look like a flaming thumbtack and with the Titan’s designer’s, it was just good ol’ dumb luck, I still think consumers may be confused by the remarkably similar flaming thumbtack images.

To protest Yahoo!’s blatant disregard for my home team’s copyrighted logo, I have decided that when I attend Titans games, I will not use Fire Eagle to manage my location across the internet and on mobile applications.