I had a chance late yesterday to catch up with Jeff Weiner, point man at Yahoo for all things search. Jeff’s been a great resource for both this site as well as the book, and it had been far too long since we last caught up. The last time we spoke at length he showed me prototypes for what became Y!Q, so my expectations were high for this chat.
Jeff’s always been the kind of guy who not only suffered my fascination with Joints after Midnight topics, he’s even encouraged them. This time around he brought one such topic to me: the overall vision statement for Yahoo Search. The statement is not particularly new, Terry Semel referred to it at the beginning of his comments in the last quarterly earnings call, but Jeff wanted to bounce if off me, and by extension, all of you. He also wanted to talk about where search was going, and the implications of the flood of news in this space over the past few months.
The vision statement for Yahoo Search is pretty damn good, if you’re into that kind of thing (I’ll admit, I am). Here it is, in its entirety:
To enable people to find, use, share, and expand all human knowledge.
Jeff and his team have been testing this phrase at small gatherings and in the press this month, and so far it seems to be well received, if still a bit under the radar. Compare it to Google’s mission statement:
To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.
Interesting, no? Now, I’m mixing my visions and my missions, as many of you may quickly point out. Yahoo Search also has a mission:
To provide the world’s most valued and trusted search service.
But that doesn’t really have the same ring to it. Google’s mission, I think, is really a vision statement in mission clothing, and it feels appropriate to compare it with the Yahoo Search vision.
When you think about Yahoo’s search mission as an organizing principle, a lot of what Yahoo is doing – 360, MyWeb, Y!Q, the purchase of Flickr – start to fall into place. Weiner calls his vision FUSE (for Find, Use, Share, and Expand) and it’s an apt metaphor – using search to fuse a myriad of services and applications, all of which center on knowledge and its application.
As Jeff pointed out to me, at the center of the idea of FUSE is what’s happening to media – how every single medium – music, TV, print, telecom, even our first versions of the web – is being remixed and reordered by Web 2.0. It’s an old saw, but mass media really is becoming my media – through RSS, podcasting, iTunes, Tivo, blogs, and many innovations to come. And central to navigating a my media world is search. Hence, the FUSE vision holds water for me – search is not just about a web index. It’s about my interface to the world.
I like both Google and Yahoo’s visions, to be honest, they both augur a future where control lies with us, through the questions we ask and the tracks we leave across the ever expanding web. Yahoo’s focus on sharing, I think, is critical, and perhaps a key area where Google’s (stated) vision may be lacking at the moment. But with so many recent innovations in that space – search history, Gmail, increased RSS support, centralized account management – I don’t expect that deficit to stand for long.