Innaresting. Yahoo Aims at Google’s Cultural Grammar

Google is a verb in our culture, in fact, it's more than that, it's a representation of a new way of understanding our relationship to knowledge. That's A Pretty Big Deal, and it's also got to be insanely frustrating to a company like, well, Yahoo, which had the chance…

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Google is a verb in our culture, in fact, it’s more than that, it’s a representation of a new way of understanding our relationship to knowledge. That’s A Pretty Big Deal, and it’s also got to be insanely frustrating to a company like, well, Yahoo, which had the chance to own the very same thing back in the late 90s. (It’s also frustrating to the poor sods in Google legal, see here).

So I found this announcement interesting – Yahoo is asking its users to remix its brand, in what seems a clear attempt to nudge the Yahoo brand next to Google’s in our cultural reference set. In fact, the blog entry announcing the contest acknowledges Google’s dominance in the field:

There’s been some reports about how Google is trying to stop people from using the term, googling. When I heard about it, I was like, “Hello, gift horse, mouth!”….People don’t often do what you want them to do, and brands are more about what consumers think, than what companies want. We’re ok with that. You want the yodel? Have it anytime you want (just mouse over the ! on the front page and click). Is Yahoo! a verb, noun or exclamation? Maybe it’s all of them.

So Yahoo is open sourcing its brand (and its yodel to boot.) Not a bad idea, but … to quote another famous brand campaign: where’s the beef? The only thing that will get culture to form a lasting impression around a brand, one that matters as much as A New Relationship To Knowledge, anyway, is, well, a new relationship to knowledge. That doesn’t come around very often. Though, I must admit, I’m eager to see another one soon. It has been more than ten years since Alta Vista and Overture, after all.

(image credit)

Author: John Battelle

A founder of NewCo (current CEO), sovrn (Chair), Federated Media, Web 2 Summit, The Industry Standard, Wired. Author, investor, board member (Acxiom, Sovrn, NewCo), bike rider, yoga practitioner.

6 thoughts on “Innaresting. Yahoo Aims at Google’s Cultural Grammar”

  1. How and why would companies would want to limit what we can an d cannot say.

    I guess since the they have done this with some of their other browsers for other counties.

  2. I think that these things are not good for Google. I see this year a lot of good changes in Yahoo.
    At the same time that yahoo is working to try to be closer and friendly for the end user, it seems that Google is spending too much energy teaching the people how they would talk.

  3. I suspect the reason Google is examining that particular gift horse’s bicuspids (do horses have bicuspids?) is that if “to google” becomes generic, they lose legal control of their brand, and anybody can use it. That happened to “aspirin” (ask Bayer), and Xerox carries on an endless campaign to promote “copy” instead of “xerox” as the verb. “Kleenex” instead of “tissue” is another one.

  4. Does anyone know the term for the common phenomena of using a brand name in place of the “generic”? “Saran Wrap” in place of “plastic wrap”, “skidooing” instead of “snowmobiling”. They’re endless… and there’s a term for it but I can’t recall, nor can I find it by “googling” it.

  5. I don’t know. As far as traffic goes, google is just growing and growing. Sure yahoo has a big portal of sites, but their shareholders don’t seem to be to impressed..

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