Why did Yahoo dodge the instant messaging trend ?
Some days I feel that Yahoo was on a speeding train on a rainbow heading to a place filled with users and revenue, then fought everyone on the train to head down the aisle right up to the front of the train only to jump under it's tracks. I am not speaking of all of Yahoo but mainly Yahoo messenger.
I don't know about you but from the perspective of an eastern European in his middle 20's there was a time when Yahoo, with Yahoo Messenger was the cool kid on the block. When I started using the internet around 2000 there weren't a lot of instant messaging apps, I did not know much about e-mail because I was young and chatting on an IRC chat rooms was as fun as going to the outdoor swimming pool in the winter.
I did not really have a choice when I started using Yahoo services. Yahoo mail was by far the most popular and everyone I knew back then had an Yahoo Messenger id. Although it was a tad buggier than I would have liked the connectivity it gave me was making it worth using. Before I knew it my contacts list grew and asking for someone's yahoo messenger id was the best way of making that first connection. Also it was less personal than their phone number so everyone was willing to exchange info.
As we know, over the years the product's communication capabilities increased, with the possibility to make audio and video calls. Also, the ability to store chat history online was welcomed by the users. The audibles were funny and the emoticons had enough personality to get the thought or the feeling across.
But, over the past few years other instant messaging services have increased in popularity. The truth is they are better, better integrated, better designed and with an overall better approach to communication. The new design trends have passed by yahoo messenger's glossy buttons, gradient skins and eye candy and now the apps feels out of place on most of the operating systems. Even the Android app is feels out of place. Nothing has been updated, nothing new has been added to keep the interest up; the app looks and feels unpolished, even buggy and sometimes fails to send messages or updated profile info correctly. I do not think it is a chat app worthy of 2013.
When Marissa Mayer joined Yahoo with the plans to put this company back on tracks the instant messaging services that are most popular today were already active but there was still room to reenter the competition. Some instant messaging services started from scratch with their user base and they have thrived and are becoming more and more popular with millions in revenue as I am writing this. I think the large user base that yahoo already had should have been a good enough reason to pump development time and cash into this product. The platform was there, the ad network was there, the users were there, the company name was there, the connections between people were there.
This company has been making waves in the news recently with it's acquisitions and it's promise to be back on the top of internet users daily agenda of used tech services yet in my opinion the users could see more from all these headlines Yahoo is generating. I am not advocating the idea of making a buggy app popular but my opinion is that Yahoo could have stepped up the quality of it's instant messaging service and at the same time increase it's popularity in the lower age segment where it is suffering from user growth.
Today is one of those days I asked myself what would have been? After receiving the new Facebook Messenger update for Android my mind reiterated the same thought I had a dozen times in the past year and a half: Why didn't Yahoo pay more attention to it's Messenger app and turn it into a worthy competitor on the Instant Messaging front ?
Is it too late to jump back on this speeding train ?