For users, the new service is supposed to have better spam filtering, among other things. For Yahoo, the service does what Gmail does: It “reads” your email to serve ads that reflect the content of your conversations. If you’re emailing someone to ask their advice about buying a new digital camera, their reply might have digital camera ads next to it.
Under Mayer’s leadership, Yahoo has unveiled a stunning redesign for its Flickr photo site. More importantly, Mayer has signaled a new direction for the site, moving away from professional photographers toward a more broad-based social photo sharing service, probably one increasingly integrated with other Yahoo services.
The company also made a failed bid for online video site Dailymotion, and is now said to be working on an acquisition of the online video streaming service Hulu. (At the time of this writing, Yahoo was in a bidding war for Hulu against DirecTV, Time Warner Cable and other major companies.)
Since Mayer became CEO, Yahoo has acquired Alike, Astrid, GoPollGo, Jybe, Loki, Milewise, OntheAir, Snip.it, Stamped and Summly. Most of these were acquihires -- acquisitions made for the purpose of hiring the startup staff. Mayer is basically hoarding Silicon Valley tech geniuses.
Could it be any clearer that Yahoo wants to be Google?
The forced conversion to data-harvesting email mirrors Gmail. The high-end photo service for the masses mirrors Google+’s sophisticated photo features. The Tumblr buy mirrors Google+’s social sharing. The Dailymotion and Hulu acquisition attempts mirror YouTube. And the tech talent hoarding mirrors Google’s overall hiring policy.
All of Yahoo’s major moves since Mayer has been in charge have been about making Yahoo more like Google.
The main difference between future Yahoo and future Google is that Yahoo doesn’t filter content and Google does.
Making matters worse, Tumblr has an enormous amount of “stolen” content, posted without permission of the copyright holders. It’s unclear whether this fact opens up Yahoo to potential lawsuits.
Yahoo claims that Tumblr is just the Internet. But it’s not clear that a judge would view it that way. Tumblr pictures are uploaded to Yahoo’s servers, and Yahoo sells ads against that content.
Google, on the other hand, does not allow what it considers objectionable material on Google+. But it doesn’t seem to scan for copyrighted material, either (as it does on YouTube, for example).
Much of the adult content involves depictions of violence, degradation and abuse of various kinds. So Yahoo will be facing the ire of human rights campaigners, feminist organizations, animal cruelty opposers, anti-violence groups and others.
It’s not certain how a Tumblr content crackdown would affect Tumblr and Yahoo. Tumblr is considered by many users the biggest social blogging service where control isn’t exerted by a big corporation with an ill-defined and vaguely puritanical mission.
So Mayer’s stated decision to keep mature content in Tumblr brings both risks and opportunities.
It’s very clear now that Mayer’s objective at Yahoo is to transform that old, lost portal company into a “Google Lite” -- using the same aggressively contextual, advertising-focused business model that combines dozens of major content and social experiences into an increasingly integrated experience for users.
There’s just one question: Is the Internet big enough for two Googles?