Yahoo's leaked announcement, apparently confirmed, that it's shutting down Delicious, AltaVista, MyBlogLog, Buzz, Yahoo Bookmarks, and Yahoo Picks has left many people clamoring for a reprieve, specifically for Delicious. (Yahoo says it intends to sell Delicious, not shut it down.)
Even if you consider Delicious a relic of the dot-com bubble, some people like to share their bookmarks, and Delicious claims truly fanatical fans. Yahoo would seem to have little to lose by liberating Delicious into open source nirvana.
Yahoo, as you may know, makes most of its money from online advertising, with Yahoo Mail, News, search, maps, and a multitude of websites in its stable. This collection of sites includes AltaVista, which -- until recently -- had long been the search engine powering Yahoo Search; in 2003, Yahoo bought Overture, AltaVista's parent company. In 2005, in an attempt to stay competitive with Google, Yahoo went on a buying spree. Flickr was one of the first acquisitions; six months later it bought Alibaba, the multi-billion-dollar B2B giant; followed by Delicious from Joshua Schachter. In early 2007, Yahoo bought MyBlogLog from Eric Marcoullier and Cloudspace.
All of those acquisitions, with the exception of Flickr and Alibaba, have languished -- which is a polite way of saying that Yahoo hasn't done much at all to improve or, in some cases, even support them.
Microsoft made a bid for Yahoo two years ago, but Yahoo turned it down. A few months ago, Microsoft consumated a deal with Yahoo to provide Bing search engine internals for Yahoo Search -- a match that's turned out well for Microsoft, as almost 60 percent of the searches that go through the Bing engine come from Yahoo sites, according to ComScore, but at AltaVista's expense.
Rumors have been flying all month about a Yahoo-AOL merger, in some form or another. AOL's main source of revenue comes from legacy dial-up Internet service, a business line that could be spun off to yield a nugget possibly worthy of Yahoo's $3 billion cash hoard. Carol Bartz, Yahoo's CEO, just confirmed in a memo to employees that Yahoo is laying off 600 people, or 4 percent of its workforce -- the fourth mass layoff in the past three years.
Alan Shimel, writing in the Network World Back to Open Source blog, presented an interesting alternative: "While they may not be money makers or strategic to Yahoo anymore, Delicious and the others still have plenty of fans out there. Rather than just killing them off, Yahoo should take a page out of the Google play book and donate these to the open source community. That way if people who are passionate about using them want to, they can continue to develop these services without the financial pressures of being part of a former Internet giant trying desperately to float a sinking ship."
While AltaVista has been eclipsed on many fronts by well-heeled competitors, Delicious and MyBlogLog have staked out niches that are still viable and probably will be for quite some time. I agree with Alan. Yahoo could rack up all sorts of brownie points by just letting them go, releasing the code under some appropriate open source classification, and working with a group of fans to transfer ownership of the websites.
Whaddya say, Yahoo?