Yahoo will go on

King of the world? Yahoo's new CEO has a much bigger task ahead of him: keep the company from sinking like the Titanic

There's a new Chief Yahoo in town, and the snark is flying fast and furious.

I guess when you're named CEO of a company that everybody else has given up for dead it's a bit like being named captain of the Titanic shortly after the iceberg has been engaged. (Memo to RIM: Hope you're paying attention here.)

[ It may be too early to judge Yahoo's new CEO, but it's not too late to check out Cringely's list of the 10 dumbest tech moves of 2011. | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. | Get the latest insight on the tech news that matters from InfoWorld's Tech Watch blog. ]

Ex-PayPal president Scott Thompson is slipping into Carol Bartz's old size-9 stiletto heels at Yahoo, but judging by the reaction on the blogosphere he might as well be stepping off a cliff.

  • Rick Aristotle Munarriz at Motley Fool: "Yahoo hires a new Spinal Tap drummer."
  • Ryan Tate at Gawker: "Yahoo's animated corpse has a new CEO, and he's a huge nerd."
  • GigaOm's Om Malik: "Brand-new CEO, same old messed-up Yahoo."

Yo, the man's been on the job about 15 minutes. Can't he get no respect?

PayPal has certainly become the jewel in eBay's otherwise tarnished crown (available for a special Buy It Now price of only $99.95 -- order yours today!). But that isn't enough to impress the cynical masses, who've been down this road a few times with Yahoo. Per Munarriz:

There's no denying that the online financial payment platform is the Kim Kardashian of eBay's family tree -- but it's still a Kardashian. What can Yahoo gain by bringing on a transaction specialist? Then again, what was Yahoo thinking when it turned to a Hollywood executive or a retired CEO of an architecture software company for leadership?

On the other hand, Ben Parr, formerly of Mashable, says Thompson is a good choice because he's "the complete opposite of Carol Bartz." I assume he means Thompson doesn't cuss like a sailor with Tourette's or wear Manolo Blahnik pumps (though I could be wrong about the latter). Per Big Ben:

Yahooers will find it easy to like this guy. He also has a proven track record at building consumer-facing businesses. He does face a challenge switching from payments to media, though. Bottom line: His unassuming, good-hearted nature is the perfect contrast to the bombastic, in-your-face management style of Carol Bartz.

So he's a nice guy. That's ... nice. I've been trying to think of all the other nice guys who've run major technology companies. Thus far, I got nothin'. Oh wait, here's one: Jerry Yang. That ought to bode well.

In today's winner-take-all Internet, stepping into the CEO position at Yahoo is an almost impossible job, so I have sympathy for the man. Of course, if Thompson pulls a Terry Semel and runs the company into the ground while collecting a $260 million payout, I'll have less sympathy.

What should Yahoo do to turn itself around? Something. Anything. Make a major acquisition (say, AOL?), or dump all those useless moving parts and make Yahoo lean and mean. It doesn't really matter what Thompson does -- he just needs to do it, do it big, and do it fast. He needs to change the perception of Yahoo from a sinking ship to a sleek and cunningly navigated craft if he wants to have any hope of attracting young talent.

Otherwise, it's to the lifeboats, women and children first. And you know the old saying: The CEO always goes down with the ship.

Do you think Thompson is the right choice for Yahoo? Can anybody keep the company afloat? Post your thoughts below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "Yahoo will go on," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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