Stick a fork where, Ben?
Thursday, Mar 31, 2005
Updated on 3/31/05 at 11:20pm)

Today's Guardian features a story by Ben Hammersley about Yahoo being the new Google. To 'prove' his point he pulls out a data point here and a data point there and says 'voila! Q.E.D.' The trouble is that his datapoints are pretty selective, and in some cases are flat-out incorrect.

Ben chooses one moment in time where he perceives Yahoo to have barely edged ahead and calls the game over ('three-nil'). Even if I agreed with his analysis, in the words of Yogi Berra "We didn't lose, the game just ended too early."

Ben says "Google's [search] API was a thing of beauty when it launched [three years ago]" but has been overtaken by Yahoo's [search] API, which was launched last month. Even if you ignore Google's five other APIs, it's disingenuous to fire the final buzzer just because the other guys scored a three-pointer.

For five years Yahoo made relatively minor changes to their maps service, and last month Google came out with an entirely new offering. A little later Yahoo adds traffic data to their maps and yes, it's a useful feature. Ben is quick to note how Yahoo is a 'leader' because they just launched their labs competitor,, yet he completely ignores the fact that Google Maps itself is a labs offering. Is it fair to compare a six year old product with a one month old labs release and declare a winner?

Closer to my own heart though, Ben says, "Google's webmail product, Gmail, caused a fuss by offering accounts capable of storing a gigabyte of mail, four times that of Yahoo Mail. No problem, said Yahoo last week, Yahoo mail users can have a gigabyte too." Whatnow? When Gmail launched (a year ago tomorrow) Yahoo mail gave users four megabytes and Gmail represented a 250x increase, not the other way around. I'm proud that Gmail caused the other guys to raise their falsely-limited storage sizes but c'mon. Yahoo announced that they'll finally match the competition's storage offering, a year after the competition's launch, and Ben scores this as a 'Yahoo win'? Have you used Gmail, Ben? Is storage size the differentiator?

Next on the block is Blogger vs Yahoo 360: "Google's purchase of Blogger gave them a place at the blogger's table, but it has done little with it. Yahoo's blogging tool, Yahoo 360, launches this month, allegedly fully integrated with the rest of the content they produce." Ben, Yahoo bought Geocities for 3.6 billion dollars six years ago, and you fault Blogger for not advancing? Also, I have to ask if Ben's used Yahoo 360. Not to degrade the product, I have friends who worked very hard on it and I think they made something cool and pretty. But its a social networking service. Go ahead and compare it to Orkut and I'll happily listen, but a Blogger replacement it is not.

I accept the point about Flickr though. I think Picasa is slick as all hell, but I've never seen someone get communities as right as Flickr has. I wish those guys were sitting down my hall.

The game is a long one, my friends. In the end of course the users win either way. Like two farmhands vying for the love of a girl, no matter which one emerges victorious the lady's got a lot of flowers. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to tend my greenhouse.

Update: Yahoo! Mail quotas won't be upped to a gigabyte for another 4-6 weeks. How big will Gmail be by then?

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Hi, I'm Kevin Fox.
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