## Stupid calculations

From a new site called Stupid Calculations, here’s what an iPhone consisting of all the iPhone displays ever built would look like plopped down in the midst of Manhattan. Behold the Monophone:

I also enjoyed this dicussion of what a distribution of actual cash from Yahoo to Tumblr would be like.

What if Marissa preferred instead to thumb off hundred-dollar bills into an ecstatic crowd of Tumblr owners? Using the stack of hundreds kept handy around the house, I conducted a test that worked out to a rate of 90 bills per minute. It could certainly go faster, but it’s important to make a little flourish with each flick, a self-satisfied grin spread across the face. 90 bills per minute x \$100= \$9000. \$1.1 billion / \$9000 per minute = 122,222 minutes or 2037 hours or 84.87 continuous, no-bathroom, no-sleep days.

And what will she be getting for all this generosity? In addition to the office, it buys 175 Six Million Dollar Men; with 175 employees as of May, the acquisition works out to \$6,285,714 per employee. That’s \$41,904 per pound in livestock terms (175 employees @ an average of 150 lbs= 26,250 lbs total).

## What is Buzzfeed up to anyway?

Chris Dixon has posted, with permission, a letter that Jonah Peretti recently wrote to the employees of and investors in Buzzfeed outlining the company’s strategy. If you’re at all curious about the future of media on the web, it is an interesting read.

Most publishers build their site by stapling together products made by other companies. They get their CMS from one company, their analytics package from another, their ad tech from another, their related content widgets are powered by another, sometimes even their writers are contractors who don’t work for the company. This is why so many publisher sites look the same and also why they can be so amazingly complex and hard to navigate. They are Frankenstein products bolted together by a tech team that integrates other people’s products instead of building their own.

At BuzzFeed we take the exact opposite approach. We manage our own servers, we built our CMS from scratch, we created our own realtime stats system, we have our own data science team, we invented own ad products and our own post formats, and all these products are brought to life by our own editorial team and our own creative services team. We are what you call a “vertically integrated product” which is rare in web publishing. We take responsibility for the technology, the advertising, and the content and that allows us to make a much better product where everything works together.

It is hard to build vertically integrated products because you have to get good at several things instead of just one. This is why for years Microsoft was seen as the smart company for focusing on just one layer and Apple was seen as dumb for trying to do everything. But now Apple is more than twice (!) as valuable as Microsoft and the industry is starting to accept that you need to control every layer to make a really excellent product. Even Microsoft and Google has started to make their own hardware after years of insisting that software is what matters.

BuzzFeed is one of the very few publishers with the resources, talent, and focus to build the whole enchilada. And nothing is tastier than a homemade enchilada.

Jonah also recently offered some unsolicited advice to Marissa Meyer about how to think about media at Yahoo.

It is amazing how having a huge homepage can be a curse. People start fighting over existing traffic instead of trying to make awesome new things that are exciting enough to attract their own audience. Marissa Mayer should exclude homepage traffic from all metrics used to evaluate performance - that would be the single biggest thing she could do to turn around the company.

Taking that a step further, good performance should result in homepage placement, not the other way around.

A note of disclosure: I was/sorta still am an advisor to Buzzfeed (and work from the BF office), although nothing I ever offered in the way of advice has contributed significantly to Buzzfeed’s current success. I also enjoy enchiladas.

## Marissa Mayer is Yahoo’s new CEO

But can she turn the company around? This is a super interesting move.

Marissa Mayer, one of the top executives at Google, will be the next C.E.O. of Yahoo, making her one of the most prominent women in Silicon Valley and corporate America.

The appointment of Ms. Mayer, who was employee No. 20 at Google and was one of the few public faces of the company, is considered a surprising coup for Yahoo, which has struggled in recent years to attract top flight talent in its battle with competitors like Google and Facebook.

## How Yahoo killed Flickr

From Mat Honan at Gizmodo, an account of how Yahoo bought Flickr and then frittered away all its potential.

Because Flickr wasn’t as profitable as some of the other bigger properties, like Yahoo Mail or Yahoo Sports, it wasn’t given the resources that were dedicated to other products. That meant it had to spend its resources on integration, rather than innovation. Which made it harder to attract new users, which meant it couldn’t make as much money, which meant (full circle) it didn’t get more resources. And so it goes.

As a result of being resource-starved, Flickr quit planting the anchors it needed to climb ever higher. It missed the boat on local, on real time, on mobile, and even ultimately on social-the field it pioneered. And so, it never became the Flickr of video; YouTube snagged that ring. It never became the Flickr of people, which was of course Facebook. It remained the Flickr of photos. At least, until Instagram came along.

## Ex-employees of Google, Goldman Sachs, and Yahoo have their say

There seems to be something in the air. Within the last day or so, three ex-employees have written about why their feelings have changed about three formerly beloved companies. James Whittaker recently left Google:

The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus. […] Suddenly, 20% meant half-assed. Google Labs was shut down. App Engine fees were raised. APIs that had been free for years were deprecated or provided for a fee. As the trappings of entrepreneurship were dismantled, derisive talk of the “old Google” and its feeble attempts at competing with Facebook surfaced to justify a “new Google” that promised “more wood behind fewer arrows.”

The days of old Google hiring smart people and empowering them to invent the future was gone. The new Google knew beyond doubt what the future should look like. Employees had gotten it wrong and corporate intervention would set it right again.

The whole thing is worth a read, what with damning phrases like “social isn’t a product, social is people and the people are on Facebook” sprinkled liberally about.

In the NY Times this morning, Greg Smith writes that it’s his last day at Goldman Sachs after almost 12 years at the firm.

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.

There’s that saying: “If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” Google’s product has always been the people using their products and it sounds like Goldman has made a sizable shift in that direction.

Andy Baio hasn’t worked for Yahoo for several years, but after the company announced they were filing a patent-infringement lawsuit against Facebook, Baio wrote of his displeasure about the move at Wired.

Yahoo’s lawsuit against Facebook is an insult to the talented engineers who filed patents with the understanding they wouldn’t be used for evil. Betraying that trust won’t be forgotten, but I doubt it matters anymore. Nobody I know wants to work for a company like that.

I’m embarrassed by the patents I filed, but I’ve learned from my mistake. I’ll never file a software patent again, and I urge you to do the same.

For years, Yahoo was mostly harmless. Management foibles and executive shuffles only hurt shareholders and employee morale. But in the last few years, the company’s incompetence has begun to hurt the rest of us. First, with the wholesale destruction of internet history, and now by attacking younger, smarter companies.

Yahoo tried and failed, over and over again, to build a social network that people would love and use. Unable to innovate, Yahoo is falling back to the last resort of a desperate, dying company: litigation as a business model.

Yahoo seems to be in a different stage in its lifecycle than Google or Goldman. In the mid-to-late 2000s, they tried what Google is trying now and failed and now, as Baio notes, they are trying everything they can to survive, like the T-1000 writhing in the molten steel at the end of Terminator 2. Perhaps a harbinger of things to come for Google and Goldman?

## RIP, Geocities

Yahoo is closing Geocities “later this year”. Yahoo bought the service in 1999 for \$3.57 billion.

Dave Pell’s advice for Yahoo!: Do What You’re Great At.

Yahoo is grown up. They know what they’re great at. They are great at news. When it comes to news, they absolutely crush Google. So here’s a whacky idea my Yahoo friends. Why not define yourself by your news services and the other stuff where you destroy the competition?

## Yahoo stock plunges?

The big tech/business news of the day is Yahoo’s stock “plunge” following the withdrawl of Microsoft’s takeover offer. I’m sure plunge headlines sell newspapers and all, but the more long-term story is more interesting.

On Jan 31, the day before Microsoft offered \$31/share for Yahoo, YHOO was at \$19.18/share (market cap: \$26.4 billion) and MSFT was at \$32.60/share (market cap: \$303.6 billion). At the close of trading today, YHOO closed at \$24.37/share (market cap: \$33.5 billion) and MSFT was at \$29.08/share (market cap: \$270.8 billion). In other words, the Microsoft offer increased the value of Yahoo! Inc. by more than \$7 billion and decreased the value of Microsoft Corporation by almost \$33 billion. In still other words, in attempting to take Yahoo by force, they let an amount equal to Yahoo slip through their fingers. Why isn’t anyone writing about Yahoo’s amazing stock gains and Microsoft’s plunge?

## Microsoft wants to buy Yahoo! for \$44 billion.

Microsoft wants to buy Yahoo! for \$44 billion. This sounds like a horrible deal…big mergers/acquisitions like these often don’t work well.

## Flickr is switching their earliest members from

Flickr is switching their earliest members from a Flickr login to a Yahoo login and many of those folks are none too happy about it. Flickr is handling this tough situation very well, even though I’m personally disappointed at having to use Yahoo’s login myself. Few sites do customer service and community management better than Flickr…it’s impressive and inspiring to watch in action. They just tell people the truth, with humor, patience, and not too much spin…it’s as simple as that. (via waxy)

## There appears to be a bit of

There appears to be a bit of a problem with Yahoo’s text ad program: you aren’t allowed to show pages with Yahoo’s ads on them to people outside of the US.

## The Museum of Modern Betas features 67 pages (

The Museum of Modern Betas features 67 pages (and counting) of Web 2.0 sites that are in beta. This might also be Yahoo’s shopping list.

## Local competition

Church of the Customer takes a look at how a Northern California restaurant called Cyrus competes with The French Laundry in attracting local customers, particularly those from wineries with big expense accounts for entertaining clients:

1. Match your competitor’s exceptional quality.
The food at both restaurants was cooked perfectly and beautifully presented. Both delivered flawless service. By matching the quality of its better-known competitor, Cyrus removes the primary barriers of opposition.

2. Allow your customers to customize.
The French Laundry offers three prix-fixe menus of nine courses each. Cyrus allows its customers to choose their number of courses and the dishes.

Local competition still matters. You usually think of restaurants like The French Laundry as competing on a national or international level. Over the years, Keller’s flagship has made several short lists of the best restaurants in the world. But as this article demonstrates, having to compete for the same pool of local customers can drive competitors to achieve a high level of excellence, higher perhaps than they would have achieved without that competition, and that excellence could lead to wider recognition. Even companies like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Amazon who compete on a global level and don’t interact with their customers face-to-face still have to vie with each other for local resources, particularly employees.

## Esther Dyson: Google is blind evolution, Yahoo

Esther Dyson: Google is blind evolution, Yahoo is intelligent design. I’m not sure that’s the right metaphor to use if you want to put Yahoo on the same level as Google.

## Nice interview with Josh “Shake” Schachter about

Nice interview with Josh “Shake” Schachter about del.icio.us. “I would not say [that I am an] entrepreneur - the enterprise of the thing was always dragged along by the thing itself.”

Yahoo! buys del.icio.us…muxway is all growed up. There’s an interesting story in here somewhere about how Yahoo! is hiring/buying the “alpha geeks” (hackers, tinkerers, accidental entrepreneurs) and Google seemingly isn’t (Ph.Ds, computer scientists) and what effect that could have on each company’s development.

## New version of Yahoo Maps catches up

New version of Yahoo Maps catches up to Google Maps and does them one or two better. Quite the homage, though. (via df)

## Tom Coates moves on from the BBC

Tom Coates moves on from the BBC for a job at Yahoo! It’s now official…everyone I know works at Yahoo!

## Andy Baio sells Upcoming.org to Yahoo!

Andy Baio sells Upcoming.org to Yahoo! Congrats! I can’t wait to see what he, Leonard, and Gordon do with the site on a full-time basis. And Yahoo! keeps swallowing my friends…

## Ning is a platform on which you

Ning is a platform on which you can build your own social software…your own craigslist or del.icio.us. We were just talking about something like this the other day at Eyebeam, a MMORPG in which you write applications to adventure together or fight each other in a world instead of characters. Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft should be kicking themselves that they didn’t think of this…this is the perfect WebOS app, like Dashboard, Konfabulator, and Desktop, but multi-user and on the web. (via waxy)

## Google and NASA have announced plans to

Google and NASA have announced plans to collaborate on projects like “large-scale data management, massively distributed computing, bio-info-nano convergence, and encouragement of the entrepreneurial space industry”. In 6 months, Yahoo will announce a collaboration with the Russian Space Agency to launch original content into space. Microsoft will announce in a year that they’ve had space travel capabilities built into Office for years now but no one uses it…in two years time, they’ll completely reorg around manned missions to Mars.

Before we get going, here are some alternate titles for this post, just to give you an idea of what I’m trying to get at before I actually, you know, get at it:

• You’re probably wondering why Yahoo bought Konfabulator
• A platform that everyone can stand on and why Apple, Microsoft, and, yes, even Google will have to change their ways to be a part of it
• The next killer app: desktop Web servers
• Does the Mozilla Foundation have the vision to make Firefox the most important piece of software of this decade?
• Web 3.0
• Finally, the end of Microsoft’s operating system dominance

Now that your hyperbole meter has pegged a few times, hopefully the rest of this will seem tame in comparison. (And apologies for the length…I got rolling and, oops, 2500 words. But many of them are small so…)

Way back in October 2004, this idea of how the Web as a platform might play out popped into my head, and I’ve been trying to motivate myself into writing it down ever since. Two recent events, Yahoo’s purchase of Konfabulator and Google’s release of a new beta version of Google Desktop have finally spurred me into action. But back to October. At the Web 2.0 conference, Stewart pulled me aside and said something like, “I think I know what Google is doing with Google Browser.” From a subsequent post on his site:

I’ve had this post about Adam Bosworth, Alchemy and the Google browser sitting around for months now and it is driving me crazy, because I want all the credit for guessing this before it happens. So, for the record, if Google is making a browser, and if it is going to be successful, it will be because there is a sophisticated local caching framework included, and Google will provide the reference apps (replying to emails on Gmail or posting messages to Google groups while on the plane).

At the time, Adam Bosworth had been recently hired by Google for purposes unknown. In a blog post several months before he was hired, Bosworth mused about a “new browser”:

In this entry, I’m going to discuss how I imagine a mobilized or web services browser handles changes and service requests when it isn’t connected. This is really where the peddle hits the metal. If you just read data and never ever alter it or invoke related services (such as approving an expense report or booking a restaurant) then perhaps you might not need a new browser. Perhaps just caching pages offline would be sufficient if one added some metadata about what to cache. Jean Paoli has pointed out to me that this would be even more likely if rather than authoring your site using HTML, you authored it as XML “pages” laid out by the included XSLT stylesheets used to render it because then you could even use the browser to sort/filter the information offline. A very long time ago when I was still at Microsoft (1997) we built such a demo using XSLT and tricky use of Javascript to let the user do local client side sorting and filtering. But if you start actually trying to update trip reports, approve requests, reserve rooms, buy stocks, and so on, then you have Forms of some sort, running offline, at least some of the time, and code has to handle the inputs to the “Forms” and you have to think through how they are handled.

A couple weeks later, Google introduced the first iteration of their Desktop Search. To me, the least interesting thing about GDS was the search mechanism. Google finally had an application that installed on the desktop and, even better, it was a little Web server that could insert data from your local machine into pages you were browsing on google.com. That was a new experience: using a plain old Web browser to run applications locally and on the Web at the same time.

So this is my best guess as to how an “operating system” based on the Web (which I will refer to as “WebOS”) will work. There are three main parts to the system:

• The Web browser (along with other browser-ish applications like Konfabulator) becomes the primary application interface through which the user views content, performs services, and manages data on their local machine and on the Web, often without even knowing the difference. Something like Firefox, Safari, or IE…ideally browser agnostic.
• Web applications of the sort we’re all familiar with: Gmail, Flickr, and Bloglines, as well as other applications that are making the Web an ever richer environment for getting stuff done. (And ideally all Ajaxed up to provide an experience closer to that of traditional desktop apps.)
• A local Web server to handle the data delivery and content display from the local machine to the browser. This local server will likely be highly optimized for its task, but would be capable of running locally installed Web applications (e.g. a local copy of Gmail and all its associated data).

That’s it. Aside from the browser and the Web server, applications will be written for the WebOS and won’t be specific to Windows, OS X, or Linux. This is also completely feasible, I think, for organizations like Google, Yahoo, Apple, Microsoft, or the Mozilla Foundation to make happen (more on this below).

Compared to “standalone” Web apps and desktop apps, applications developed for this hypothetical platform have some powerful advantages. Because they run in a Web browser, these applications are cross platform (assuming that whoever develops such a system develops the local Web server part of it for Windows, OS X, Linux, your mobile phone, etc.), just like Web apps such as Gmail, Basecamp, and Salesforce.com. You don’t need to be on a specific machine with a specific OS…you just need a browser + local Web server to access your favorite data and apps.

For application developers, the main advantage is that instead of writing two or more programs for multiple platforms (one for the Web, one for Windows, etc.), they can write one app that will run on any machine with the WebOS using the same code base. Bloglines and NetNewsWire both do about the same thing and have radically different codebases (Bloglines uses HTML/JavaScript + some sort of backend programming/scripting language while NNW is a Cocoa app only for OS X), but a version of Bloglines developed for the above platform could utilize a single codebase.

You also get the advantages of locally run applications. You can use them when you’re not connected to the Internet. There could be an icon in the Dock that fires up Gmail in your favorite browser. For applications using larger files like images, video, and audio, those files could be stored and manipulated locally instead of waiting for transfer over the Internet.

There are also disadvantages to WebOS applications, not the least of which[1] is that HTTP+JavaScript+XHTML+CSS+Flash is not as robust in providing functionality and user interaction as true desktop applications written in Cocoa or Visual Basic. But as Paul Graham points out, Web applications may be good enough[2]:

One thing that might deter you from writing Web-based applications is the lameness of Web pages as a UI. That is a problem, I admit. There were a few things we would have really liked to add to HTML and HTTP. What matters, though, is that Web pages are just good enough.

Web pages weren’t designed to be a UI for applications, but they’re just good enough. And for a significant number of users, software that you can use from any browser will be enough of a win in itself to outweigh any awkwardness in the UI. Maybe you can’t write the best-looking spreadsheet using HTML, but you can write a spreadsheet that several people can use simultaneously from different locations without special client software, or that can incorporate live data feeds, or that can page you when certain conditions are triggered. More importantly, you can write new kinds of applications that don’t even have names yet.

And how about these new kinds of applications? Here’s how I would envision a few apps working on the WebOS:

• Gmail. While online, you read your mail at gmail.com, but it also caches your mail locally so when you disconnect, you can still read it. Then when you connect again, it sends any replies you wrote offline, just like Mail.app or Outlook does. Many people already use Gmail (or Yahoo Mail) as their only email client…imagine if it worked offline as well.
• A Web version of iTunes. Just like the desktop version of iTunes, except in the browser. Manages/plays audio files stored locally, with an option to back them up on the server (using .Mac or similar) as well. iTunes already utilizes information from the Internet so well (Web radio, podcasting iTMS, CDDB, etc.) that it’s easy to imagine it as a Web app. (And why stop at audio…video would work equally as well.)
• Flickr. Manage image files locally and on Flickr’s server in the browser. You could even do some rudimentary photo manipulation (brightness, contrast, red-eye correction, etc.) in the browser using JavaScript or even Flash. Prepare a bunch of photos for uploading to Flickr while on the plane ride home and they automatically sync when you next connect to the Internet.
• Newsreader. Read sites while offline (I bet this is #1 on any Bloglines user’s wish list). Access your reading list from any computer with a browser (I bet this is #1 on any standalone newsreader user’s wish list).
• File backup. A little WebOS app that helps you back up your files to Apple’s .Mac service, your ISP, or someone like Google. You’ll specify what you want backed up and when through the browser and the backup program will take care of the rest.

I’m looking at the rest of the most commonly used apps on my Powerbook and there’s not too many of them that absolutely need to be standalone desktop applications. Text editor, IM[3], Word, Excel, FTP, iCal, address book…I could imagine versions of these running in a browser.

So who’s going to build these WebOS applications? Hopefully anyone with XHTML/JavaScript/CSS skills, but that depends on how open the platform is. And that depends on whose platform it is. Right now, there are five organizations who are or could be moving in this direction:

• Yahoo. I’m pretty sure Yahoo is thinking in these terms as well. That’s why they bought Konfabulator: desktop presence. And Yahoo has tons of content and apps that that would like to offer on a WebOS-like platform: mail, IM, news, Yahoo360, etc. Challenge for Yahoo: widgets aren’t enough…many of these applications are going to need to run in Web browsers. Advantages: Yahoo seems to be more aggressive in opening up APIs than Google…chances are if Yahoo develops a WebOS platform, we’ll all get to play.
• Microsoft. They’re going to build a WebOS right into their operating system…it’s likely that with Vista, you sometimes won’t be able to tell when you’re using desktop applications or when you’re at msn.com. They’ll never develop anything for OS X or for Linux (or for browsers other than IE), so its impact will be limited. (Well, limited to most of the personal computers in the world, but still.)
• Apple. Apple has all the makings of a WebOS system right now. They’ve got the browser, a Web server that’s installed on every machine with OS X, Dashboard, iTMS, .Mac, Spotlight, etc. All they’re missing is the applications (aside from the Dashboard widgets). But like Microsoft, it’s unlikely that they’ll write anything for Windows or Linux, although if OS X is going to run on cheapo Intel boxes, their market share may be heading in a positive direction soon.
• The Mozilla Foundation. This is the most unlikely option, but also the most interesting one. If Mozilla could leverage the rapidly increasing user base of Firefox and start bundling a small Web server with it, then you’ve got the beginnings of a WebOS that’s open source and for which anyone, including Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and anyone with JavaScript chops, could write applications. To market it, they could refer to the whole shebang as a new kind of Web browser, something that sets it apart from IE, a true “next generation” browser capable of running applications no matter where you are or what computer (or portable device) you’re using.

So yeah, that’s the idea of the WebOS (as I see it developing) in a gigantic nutshell. The reality of it will probably be a lot messier and take a lot longer than most would like. If someone ends up doing it, it will probably not be as open as it could be and there will likely be competing Web platforms just as there are now competing search engines, portals, widget applications (Konfabulator, Dashboard, Google Desktop Sidebar), etc., but hopefully not. There’s lots more to discuss, but I’m going to stop here before this post gets even more ridiculously long. My thanks if you even made this far.

[1] Actually, the biggest potential problems with all this are the massive security concerns (a Web browser that has access to data on your local hard drive?!!!??) and managing user expectations (desktop/web app hybrids will likely be very confusing for a lot of users). Significant worries to be sure, but I believe the advantages will motivate the folks developing the platform and the applications to work through these concerns.

[2] For more discussion of Web applications, check out Adam Rifkin’s post on Weblications.

[3] Rumor has it that Google is releasing an IM client soon (more here). I’ll be pretty surprised if it’s not significantly Web-based. As Hotmail proved for email, there’s no reason that IM has to happen in a desktop app (although the alerting is problematic).

[4] Maybe Google thinks they can’t compete with Apple’s current offerings (Spotlight, Dashboard, Safari, iPhoto) on their own platform, but that’s not a good way of thinking about it. Support as many people as you can on as many different architectures as you can, that’s the advantage of a Web-based OS. Microsoft certainly hasn’t thought of Apple as a serious competitor in the OS space for a long time…until Web applications started coming of age recently, Microsoft’s sole competitor has been Microsoft.

## Odd size comparison of Yahoo and Google

Odd size comparison of Yahoo and Google indices. I think their assumption (that a “series of random searches to both search engines should return more than twice as many results from Yahoo! than Google”) is pretty flawed. The number of returned results could vary because of the sites’ different optimizations for dictionary words, for searches with small result sets, and differences in how their search algorithms include or exclude relevant results. Put it this way: if I’m looking for a frying pan in my apartment, I’m gonna refine my search to the kitchen and not worry about the rest of the house, no matter how large it is. (via /.)

## David Filo and Jerry Yang are organizing

David Filo and Jerry Yang are organizing the entire WWW into a hierarchical category system. They’ve named their site “Yahoo”.