What Yahoo should do: Branding the web.
Have you noticed that Dove and Axe are both owned by the same company, Unilever? Did you now that The Daily Show is aired on a network (Comedy Central) owned by the people (Viacom) who also own the network (MTV) which showed Jackass.* These are brands that represent completely different values and believes and that is not an accident or a historical artefact. It is because these different brands appeal to different audiences. The multinationals behind these brands use these different images to get an exact fit for every customer group available. And all this in order to maximize profits.
This is the way big business does business, all over the world, except… on the internet. Have you noticed how your search engine is called Google, you email with gmail (which is clearly google) and you can have a social network called Google+? And all this possibly on a browser called Google Chrome through your Google Glasses. True, there is also Youtube. But at this point in time it hardly looks different except for the logo in the corner. And if Google could help it, you would connect with all these service with one single account.
Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Yahoo are no different. Where other multinationals buy a company and only sharp up the image, these internet giants try to merge their buys into their own framework and image. See for example what happened to Flickr; at one point you had to have a yahoo account. When such an account is required you let the person immediately feel that they are no longer part of a community on the web, instead they are a customer of an internet multinational. It robs original communities from all of their appeal.
This approach might work for products like search engines and web directories. These products only function when they are big and complete. There is no sense of community or a special target market (though search engines like duckduckgo might change that a bit). For social media this is completely different. Users often feel part of a special group, who share values, beliefs and experiences. The most hardcore user, who often keep a community together, have their own reasons to have joined a particular platform and not another one. Mergers will have especially these users scrambling for other pastures.
Any merging an assimilating of services under control of a multinational are bound to destroy these special places people have created. This will probably result in a decrease of users, which in turn will greatly diminish any profit potential the platform had. At least it is honest.
But do I really want that honesty? I buy my music and furniture from multinationals. My food comes from multinationals, also pushing other brands. I would wish what I buy influences the world. Therefore I sometimes choose certain brands, whenever I can afford it. I hope the multinationals would find some proper ethics in their hearts, but real life sadly isn’t a fairy tale. I have to do with what is on offer. And for the moment that is Yahoo owning Tumblr. I think Tumblr will be worth most for Yahoo, when Tumblr is kept as a completely separate brand at least from a consumer point of view. For myself I hope the same. I don’t want to use some yahoo-ed up version of Tumblr, I want to keep using what Tumblr is now.
I thought I would never say something like this. But please Yahoo, for the sake of both of us, start branding the web.
* For some more examples, see this great Vlogbrothers video.
Disclaimer: I have no background in branding or business or anything. These I a collection of thoughts I wanted to share. My opinion is not solid state and will change over time.