Last night I was on System Showdown talking about tech. They asked my thoughts on the Microsoft/Yahoo merger. I basically shot from the hip and said that Yahoo should stop “Dropping Landmines” and focus on not being bought out by restructuring.
It got me to thinking again on what Yahoo could change. I remembered that some time ago, I talked about what Yahoo could do to turn things around. One of the things I mentioned was if Yahoo Geocities became more of a Social Networking Hybrid.
GeoCities was started by a web hosting company to give people a place to call their own. They created a “Street Directory” in where you felt you were in a “Community” with others that shared similar interests – Much like today’s’ Social Networking sites. GeoCities ability to produce original content vaulted the site to “the 5th most visited site“. GeoCities went public in 1998: IPO started at $17 and rose to over one hundred.
Then Yahoo, who was buying companies left and right to increase their value, acquired GeoCities. Many felt this was a nail for the coffin on GeoCities. Still, GeoCities survives today with their free section and their low paid content web section.
In the sake of research, I decided to do something I haven’t done in over 10 years. Build a Geocities Webpage. I played “Joe User” and let the site design my system. I picked a techie theme (complete with pictures of 3.5” disks) and added all the links and info asked for.
I then opened the page in their design program called “Page Builder”. The page was Pretty straightforward in its look and functionality. Add text, pictures, ect. I decided to put a blog on this site, so I started over and chose the 360 blog. It worked pretty well and I got my new blog started in no time.
Still, I had to wonder, why don’t people flock to this like say Facebook? I have friends that have been on Geocities for years and they’ve never had a problem. Then I remember what prompted me to switch.
At that time I put together a site to follow the antics of me and some friends that went camping every year. Put together simple pages and add photos and a bunch of other cool items. I learned a lot about HTML at that time, and I was proud of what I put together.
Then some hacker kid came in and destroyed the whole site. No reason – just because I was on Geocities and he had nothing better to do. When that happened, I went in and changed the password and (which in hindsight was a stupid idea) berated the hacker.
Now 10 years ago there wasn’t much talk on how to make a secure password. The hacker easily broke into my site again, and this time, instead of deleting the content, he deleted my profile. He then turned around and created a new profile and took over all my credentials.
This was about a month after Yahoo bought out GeoCities. After 3 days of emails to Yahoo I got a response saying there was nothing they could do. I was pretty much floored that a person could take over stuff I worked on so diligently without issue. That’s when I decided to get a little more serious with what I did and put together a plan. My first website was born.
Still, I look at this new Geocities page I created and think to myself – what’s so special about it? I started thinking about widgets and interaction and how that might make this page a lot better. But I didn’t see any of those items. I didn’t even see an option to add other GeoCities Friends. Maybe it’s a option you get for 8.95 a month?
I started thinking about Yahoo’s 360 services – so I trekked over to 360.yahoo.com. It felt like a Social Network. I had and interactive feel, blog entries, and everything to build a social network site.
There is no real customization to the page beyond the basics. If I want to add pictures, I have to create an account at Flickr. There is STILL a link to go to Yahoo pictures. In this day and age, how tacky is that? Especially since Yahoo photos has been closed for close to a year now.
I was already linked to my Geocities blog. I could put some rss feeds on, which I added Geekazine (I know, it’s sad). When I looked at the site, it wouldn’t take the feed. Why not? My RSS Works with other RSS aggregators.
It all came back to the same thing. The same comments many people have said for many years now. Yahoo has no web organizational skills and once they put something together, they just move on.
Yahoo’s answer to reorganization so far is to close what they have. I call that “Cancerous” – Simply because there is no progress in that. When you close something like the photos or Yahoo music then want to bring it back down the road – your credibility is not going to be too great with customers. Don’t build a customer base only to rip it down on a moment’s notice.
Getting back to the idea here, how can Yahoo Organize? What if GeoCities was to merge with Yahoo 360? Why are there two separate entities to begin with? The answer might be a site that could possibly rival or even surpass MySpace or Facebook simply because the customization can be more than just a few widgets or a change in the style sheet tags.
It was pretty obvious that Yahoo bought GeoCities in hopes to turn those customers into paying Website owners. Have GeoCities Plus accounts and be able to put together a good website for yourself or your business. Yahoo is good at giving people the bare minimum and then holds your information hostage until you pay.
Remember when the word GeoCities was very prominent? Remember – it used to be the 5th most popular site on the web. What is it now? According to Alexa, the top 10 are:
GeoCities only accounts for 1.5 percent of web traffic nowadays. Google accounts for 25-30 percent. Yahoo was dominant over Google in rank until about a year ago. I wonder if Yahoos’ stature was by user choice, or because IT departments started implementing rules like standardized homepages. Some companies will not allow their employees to log into sites like Yahoo because it could introduce a virus into the system.
Sometime in Mid-2002, GeoCities dropped significantly and stayed low until 2006 when it rose slightly to its 1.5 percent mark. The most interesting factor is out of the top 5, Yahoo is the only site that is showing no positive growth. So this only begs the next question – When will Yahoo decide that GeoCities is no longer producing and decide to close it down or sell it off?
It’s very obvious that Yahoo has to do something. Selling off customers to other services will not win over hearts – unless you plan to run a Fire Sale. Reorganization is a great key. Stop making the site feel segregated and incorporate everything to any easy to use site. Don’t charge for services that other people offer for free. Advertising is a part of sites, and as long as they’re not invasive, we will have to live with them.
GeoCities 360 has a good ring to it. Go back to the feel of communities. Spark interest in people’s sites by giving them simple options like a Friends list. Dig up the Landmines and pave the roads. You might just get more traffic and become a force to reckon with again.