Yahoo Acquires Summly – Just an expensive PR stunt?

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For the past few years Yahoo’s traffic has slowly but surely been taken away by Google and (sadly) Bing; but this is not without good reason. Although Yahoo has recently updated its homepage, it’s UK version looks as though it has been frozen since 2005, seemingly not bothering to embrace any modern wed design practices or even basic user experience ideas. What are you supposed to do when you hit Yahoo’s homepage? Search? Look at articles? If you look at any modern, successful website it is very clear what you are supposed to do: with Google, you search; with Facebook, you connect; with YouTube, you watch.

It’s no surprise then that lately Yahoo has been trying to rejuvenate it’s image, starting with their American homepage redesign – I only hope that they will transfer this to the UK site soon. Speaking of which, why do they even have separate sites? Are users in America so different to users in the UK that the entire look and feel needs to be different? Sure – the content needs to be changed, but that can be done by the server.

Now, Yahoo has announced that they are acquiring Summly and its team. Without a doubt, the app is beautiful, and would make an excellent direction for Yahoo to go into. But is it really worth the speculated $30 million that Yahoo are paying for it? Of course it isn’t, especially seeing as though Summly only had 1 million downloads before it was pulled from the app store, with a lot of competition.

This sale, however, brought a lot of media attention onto Yahoo, which is of course exactly what they want, and need, right now. They are in a fragile position right now, as users increasingly realise that the services that they provide can be better provided by Google or even Facebook. I suspect that we’ll be seeing a lot more of Nick D’Aloisio in the coming months, every time accompanied by some improvement to the Yahoo technologies. Yahoo no longer wants to be the kid sat in the corner of the playground with no friends, it wants to be the cool dude, and they think that D’Aloisio could be their new face.

I find it hard to believe that Summly is being bought purely for it’s function. If Yahoo had really wanted this technology, they could have built it themselves, or bought it for much cheaper from any number of Summly’s competitors. What made Summly stand out? There’s no denying that D’Aloisio is charismatic, well-spoken, and young – which makes him a matter of great interest. D’Aloisio received his first round of venture capitalist funding when he was 15 – does that make him a genius, or is he just well-connected?

D’Aloisio’s parents are undeniably both rich and influential – and I would wager good money that they are a major part of his success so young. Nevertheless, he obviously does have talent: I’m not pretending that you can get as far as he has without some skill. But D’Aloisio’s main charm is his charisma, something that can be clearly seen in his advert. And that, I believe, is why Yahoo bought him. Whatever the reason – I am sure that we will be seeing much more of him – at least until he grows old and we lose interest.

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