Technologizer

Marissa Mayer: Yahoo!’s Utterly Surprising, Completely Logical Pick for CEO

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There was a time, out here in Silicon Valley, when Marissa Mayer seemed to have as symbiotic a relationship with Google as its founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and its CEO, Eric Schmidt, did.

As the company’s 20th hire, she had been with Google for nearly its entire history, and was instrumental in creating its namesake search engine, Gmail and other services. And at Google media events, she was often the primary spokesperson–an articulate and enthusiastic advocate for whatever the company was announcing.

That was a few years ago. In October of 2010, Mayer, who had been Google’s search czar as VP of Search Product and User Experience, switched roles to head up efforts related to location and local services. It’s possible that she remained productive and happy behind the scenes, but she was no longer anything like the primary public face for the company which she had once been. Rumor also has it that she left the small group of staffers who directly advise Page, now the company’s CEO again, in December of last year.

Now, after thirteen years, 37-year-old Mayer is leaving Google, period. In one of the most startling executive hires I can remember, she’s becoming president and CEO of Yahoo!, the beleaguered web giant which probably would be in much better shape if Mayer hadn’t done such a good job of leading archrival Google’s search efforts for so long.

I don’t know of a single expert who put Mayer on the short list of potential Yahoo! chiefs. She takes the position after it looked like it might be a nearly-done deal that it would go to Yahoo!’s interim CEO, veteran media executive Ross Levinsohn.

Yahoo! really, really needs Mayer to be a spectacular success. Her immediate predecessors include ex-PayPal CEO Scott Thompson (ousted from Yahoo! after 130 days when his bio turned out to have a bogus computer science degree), former Autodesk CEO Carol Bartz (who spent 30 months at Yahoo! without learning to articulate what the company was) and Yahoo! cofounder Jerry Yang (who spurned Microsoft‘s extraordinarily generous takeover attempt in 2008, only to see the company’s market cap collapse thereafter). Hollywood exec Terry Semel, whose time at Yahoo! ended in 2007, was the last CEO whose tenure was disappointing rather than disastrous.

In a way, it’s unfair to bash Bartz for failing to explain Yahoo!; it’s been years since anyone has explained coherently what the company is, rather than what it might be or once was. It still does search, but it outsourced much of its search technology to Microsoft in 2009. It remains proud of the brainy computer scientists it employs, but the company has failed to turn their science into new breakout hits. It likes to point out that hundreds of millions of everyday people around the world still rely on its services, but some of those services, such as Flickr, have fallen behind the times.

And while people often define Yahoo! as a media company, a Yahoo! that thought of itself as purely a media business probably would have hired Levinsohn rather than Mayer.

If Mayer were just another savvy Silicon Valley executive who’d spent most of her career at one outfit and never run a company, she might feel like a quixotic choice for a big, troubled public company like Yahoo!. But she’s Marissa Mayer. She played a key role in making Google into…Google. She’s famous for her obsessive focus on pleasing experiences, and the lengths to which she’ll go to measure whether something’s working for users or not. I’m not entirely sure that Google search wasn’t in better overall shape when she ran the show.

If Mayer can help Yahoo! build (or buy) consumer services as compelling as the ones she helped create at Google–and spruce up existing Yahoo! offerings in need of repair–it won’t solve the company’s many problems overnight. And there’s no guarantee that she’ll pull it off even with her obvious smarts and impressive résumé. (See: Jon Rubinstein, Apple‘s Mr. iPod, who failed to pull smartphone pioneer Palm out of its tailspin.)

But if Mayer can make Yahoo! a place to go for truly exciting new stuff in the browser, on phones and on tablets, she’ll have done far more to improve the company’s chances than Thompson, Bartz or Yang managed to do during their recent tenures, each of which was a fiasco in a different way.

It never occurred to me that Yahoo!’s board would be smart enough to offer Marissa Mayer this job, or that she’d be audacious enough to take it. But now that it’s happening, I can’t think of anyone who’d clearly be a better choice. Even if the odds are still against Yahoo!, the odds that its CEO is finally going to be an asset rather than an albatross seem pretty good.

25 comments
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John Kolak
John Kolak

Yahoo was once the top web site -- a very long time ago. 

Interesting commentary on Yahoo's media. Yahoo News is the main reason I keep a Yahoo tab open in the browser, along with Yahoo Mail to catch the letters from people who haven't got my gmail address yet.

sigaba
sigaba

"She’s famous for her obsessive focus on pleasing experiences, and the lengths to which she’ll go to measure whether something’s working for users or not."

I seem to recall her expressing this in a slightly different way:

It looks like a human was involved in choosing what went where. It looks too editorialized. Google products are machine-driven. They’re created by machines. And that is what makes us powerful. That’s what makes our products great.

I don't know what this means for a site that was the original "curated" web search experience.

John Andrews
John Andrews

I'm surprised there's not a noncompete clause in Mayer's Google contract preventing her from going to work for a direct competitor. Then again, maybe Google doesn't consider Yahoo! competition...

HP Renew
HP Renew

Personally, I like the sound of Marissa Mayer. Through her, Yahoo! has seized a tremendous opportunity to once again compete for market share in perhaps search, or some other kind of service that will enhance online user experience.

PeterCaoSuite
PeterCaoSuite

Eric Schmidt mentioned here had lost his credibility when he got invovled into fascism crimes which had endangered human lives---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- There is actually a war between fascism and anti-fascism, at this stage, fascism still prevails in our lives, Eric Schmidt, Sebastian Thrun and Gabriele Scheler are just front figures we could see in this fascism circle, there is a whole pack of fascists behind them

Eric, as we can see, starting from Gabriele Scheler's atrocity case on Stanford campus back in 2004, many people, including Gabriele Scheler, Sebastian Thrun, you Eric Schmidt, and also your collegue in China Kaifu Lee, had made contributions to such fascism crimes which had cost human life of Stanford student May Zhou and crimes which had retaliated on victims and almost cost life of the victim as I am

... ... and someone who had provided legal coverage for your fascism crimes, including a powerful officer from Santa Clara DA Office, namely ZZZ (and after ZZZ, another officer YYY), and who had further collateralled with your side(suspect side) to conspire and curse victims( Stanford, May Zhou, me) in every possible way since 2006 till today; and maybe include the officer who insist on May Zhou's death as a suicide or accident, even though I had clearly pointed out who's involved in May Zhou's murder case ...

... ... and someone who could provide political support for your fascism crimes, including top politician from the country of Germany whom we all know, and maybe include a retired top politician from UK as well, etc. and more and more to find out later ...-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------I believe, though some names missed out, all names mentioned in the above comment are part of this fascism circle

PeterCaoSuite
PeterCaoSuite

Eric Schmidt mentioned here had lost his credibility when he got invovled into fascism crimes which had endangered human lives---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- There is actually a war between fascism and anti-fascism, at this stage, fascism still prevails in our lives, Eric Schmidt, Sebastian Thrun and Gabriele Scheler are just front figures we could see in this fascism circle, there is a whole pack of fascists behind them

Eric, as we can see, starting from Gabriele Scheler's atrocity case on Stanford campus back in 2004, many people, including Gabriele Scheler, Sebastian Thrun, you Eric Schmidt, and also your collegue in China Kaifu Lee, had made contributions to such fascism crimes which had cost human life of Stanford student May Zhou and crimes which had retaliated on victims and almost cost life of the victim as I am

... ... and someone who had provided legal coverage for your fascism crimes, including a powerful officer from Santa Clara DA Office, namely ZZZ (and after ZZZ, another officer YYY), and who had further collateralled with your side(suspect side) to conspire and curse victims( Stanford, May Zhou, me) in every possible way since 2006 till today; and maybe include the officer who insist on May Zhou's death as a suicide or accident, even though I had clearly pointed out who's involved in May Zhou's murder case ...

... ... and someone who could provide political support for your fascism crimes, including top politician from the country of Germany whom we all know, and maybe include a retired top politician from UK as well, etc. and more and more to find out later ...-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------I believe, though some names missed out, all names mentioned in the above comment are part of this fascism circle

PeterCaoSuite
PeterCaoSuite

Eric, the point at this time is, my accusations, which including killing the innocent, conspire life of the victim, etc. are clearly stated [http://tysurl dot com/BsEnQ4] while you tried to put on self-deception with several lies, and also I had challenged the officer who's responsible for this case, while he/she dare not reply, all of which would make people more curious of what did you involve and more believe in what I said

Eric, we know your name has a huge impact on human society, but how could you stand for your fame without completely clarifiying those accusations listed here? Can you deny any one of them?

PeterCaoSuite
PeterCaoSuite

Eric, the point at this time is, my accusations, which including killing the innocent, conspire life of the victim, etc. are clearly stated [http://tysurl.com/BsEnQ4] while you tried to put on self-deception with several lies, and also I had challenged the officer who's responsible for this case, while he/she dare not reply, all of which would make people more curious of what did you involve and more believe in what I said

Eric, we know your name has a huge impact on human society, but how could you stand for your fame without completely clarifiying those accusations listed here? Can you deny any one of them?

PeterCaoSuite
PeterCaoSuite

Eric, the point at this time is, my accusations, which including killing the innocent, conspire life of the victim, etc. are clearly stated [tysurl dot com/BsEnQ4] while you tried to put on self-deception with several lies, and also I had challenged the officer who's responsible for this case, while he/she dare not reply, all of which would make people more curious of what did you involve and more believe in what I said

Eric, we know your name has a huge impact on human society, but how could you stand for your fame without completely clarifiying those accusations listed here? Can you deny any one of them?

PeterCaoSuite
PeterCaoSuite

Eric Schmidt mentioned here had lost his credibility when he got invovled into fascism crimes which had endangered human lives---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- There is actually a war between fascism and anti-fascism, at this stage, fascism still prevails in our lives, Eric Schmidt, Sebastian Thrun and Gabriele Scheler are just front figures we could see in this fascism circle, there is a whole pack of fascists behind them

Eric, as we can see, starting from Gabriele Scheler's atrocity case on Stanford campus back in 2004, many people, including Gabriele Scheler, Sebastian Thrun, you Eric Schmidt, and also your collegue in China Kaifu Lee, had made contributions to such fascism crimes which had cost human life of Stanford student May Zhou and crimes which had retaliated on victims and almost cost life of the victim as I am

... ... and someone who had provided legal coverage for your fascism crimes, including a powerful officer from Santa Clara DA Office, namely ZZZ (and after ZZZ, YYY), and who had further collateralled with your side(suspect side) to conspire and curse victims( Stanford, May Zhou, me) in every possible way since 2006 till today; and maybe include the officer who insist on May Zhou's death as a suicide or accident, even though I had clearly pointed out who's involved in May Zhou's murder case ...

... ... and someone who could provide political support for your fascism crimes, including top politician from the country of Germany whom we all know, and maybe include a retired top politician from UK as well, etc. and more and more to find out later ...-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------I believe, though some names missed out, all names mentioned in the above comment are part of this fascism circle

Mel
Mel

I would like know the size of her golden parachute. Otherwise, one doesn't leave his or her role in the most successful company on the internet and head out to another one which is all but doomed from the get-go

legendaryjer
legendaryjer

Or this could be a precursor to a buyout that would bring her back into the Google fold...

OhYay
OhYay

She probably has plenty of money.  Maybe she's looking for a new challenge.  If she doesn't do well, no one will be surprised or really blame her.  If she can fix Yahoo, she's a genius.

BigMayerFan
BigMayerFan

She's does have plenty of $.  And she's the shot in the arm the co. needs.  I'm actually surprised she took it.  She's been a valley darling and now being set up for failure one could say.  Will be interseting to watch if she can turn it around there. 

Abiel Abuy
Abiel Abuy

I guess she can also use that "I'm CEO bitch" give to Google!!! :-)

nick price
nick price

Good news for yahoo

gladys
gladys

I hope she can make it....I think she can make it!

Marquita P. Evans
Marquita P. Evans

I’m not entirely sure that Google search wasn’t in better overall shape when she ran the show...AlluringWay.blogspot.com

Madan Saha
Madan Saha

 Yahoo's fifth CEO in five years as the company struggles to rebound from years of financial malaise and internal turmoil.. Google Executive' Pregnant Marissa Mayer Named Yahoo's New CEO, Yahoo Official Announcement and Mayer Interview Today Here

http://x.co/m5il

Madan Saha
Madan Saha

Yahoo's fifth CEO in five years as the company struggles to rebound from years of financial malaise and internal turmoil.. Google Executive' Pregnant Marissa Mayer Named Yahoo's New CEO, Yahoo Official Announcement and Mayer Interview Today Here

http://tiny.cc/Marissa-Mayer