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雅虎该如何走向复兴

Kevin Kelleher 2012年05月18日

“学历门”使雅虎陷入了18年历史上最悲惨的日子,但从另一方面来看,这可能也是这家互联网老店背水一战绝地逢生的好机会。那么,雅虎该如何做呢?

    但与此同时,雅虎仍应继续保持阿里巴巴和雅虎日本的部分交叉所有权,以巩固在中国和日本来之不易的长期关系,这也有助于雅虎在亚洲最大的两个网络市场上立足。

    虽说第三点基金提出的“九大要点”比较模糊,但是雅虎的亚洲资产一旦变现,第三点基金如果不马上坚持把至少其中的大部分用来给股东分红,那它就不叫“维权投资者”了。不过也就是在这个问题上,因循守旧的雅虎董事会其实有一个可以“硬起来”的机会——把这笔钱中的大部分用于重建雅虎,而不是放进股东的口袋。

    在雅虎帝国之中,仍有几处闪耀着这个老品牌过去的光辉,比如人们最常提到的雅虎体育、新闻和金融。近年来这些领域也涌现出不少创新的应用程序和网站。比如时下正热的科技博客The Verge的母公司Vox Media,以及拥有321个体育博客的SB Nation,他们都是值得收购的公司,虽然不免要花一大笔钱,但是一定对得起那个价格。另外像Flipboard和基于Twitter的News.me这样的应用服务也可以让雅虎在方兴未艾的网络新闻递送领域稳据一席之地。

    如果雅虎愿意打开它即将有望变得鼓鼓囊囊的腰包,那么还有其它一些领域也是可以进军的。比如它可以从IAC/Interactive公司那里收购YouTube的小兄弟Vimeo,这也是个很有前途和才华的视频网站。如果有人肯为Vimeo出笔大价钱,IAC的老板巴里•迪勒肯定乐于促成交易。另外自从2010年起从母公司RealNetworks独立出来的流媒体音乐网站Rhapsody也可能是雅虎音乐一直梦寐以求的那种音乐服务。

    最后,在雅虎的“窒息文化”里其实也隐藏着一些宝贵的资产。例如照片分享网站Flickr就是雅虎的一次明智的收购。虽然雅虎的本意是任其自行发展,但Flickr还是被扼杀在了雅虎的官僚主义泡沫里。为什么雅虎没有围绕着Flickr建立自己的社交战略,而是非要把它囫囵吞进雅虎自己愚蠢的社交蓝图里呢?为什么雅虎从来没把Flickr变成一款移动应用,让它具有像Instagram那样的潜力呢?

    啊,对了,我们是在讨论雅虎未来的前途,而不是声讨它过去的失误。如果雅虎打算通过购买创新公司来构建公司的前途,那么它就应该让那些创新公司的点子引领着公司前行,而不是把它们吞进一个行将就木、僵化可笑,却仍然相信自己无所不知的企业文化中。如果说过去的教训告诉了我们什么,那就是雅虎根本不知道什么才是对自己最好的。Facebook花大价钱收购了Instagram,为的是学习和认识Instagram对移动应用的了解,而不是要吸干它的血。

    最后,如果雅虎继续放任自己堕落到“专利流氓”的水平,那么雅虎将永无复苏之日。因为这会让对其未来成功至关重要的工程师和独立开发者敬而远之。在网络世界上,让一个品牌蒙羞最快的方法,莫过于你有一个好点子,但不知道拿它怎么办,结果别的公司利用这个点子赚了钱,而你就气急败坏地去起诉它。所以不要起诉他们,而是应该与它们合作,向它们学习。

    这就是我眼中的雅虎复兴之路:一、卖掉亚洲资产;二、不要把钱分给股东,而是精明地用于投资那些天才的初创公司;三、向那些初创公司学习如何在2012年的网络世界上茁壮成长;四、把专利当成防御武器,而不是进攻武器。

    如果雅虎可以做到这几点,那么它也只是有了一个背水一战的机会而已——但也许这是雅虎五年来最好的机会了。如果它做不到,那它最好现在就把过去18年赚来的每一笔资产进行破产清算,然后把钱还给投资人算了。雅虎,究竟怎样做,就看你的了。

    译者:朴成奎

    But Yahoo should also use whatever leverage it has to insist on some cross-ownership of shares in both Alibaba and Yahoo Japan, cementing already long-standing relationships that could help it establish a presence in two of Asia's largest web markets.

    Third Point's vague bullet points notwithstanding, the firm wouldn't be worthy of being called an activist investor if it didn't immediately insist on returning much, if not all, of that lucre into a shareholder payout. But here's where Yahoo's old-school board has a chance to develop a spine: Put most of that money not into shareholder pockets, but into rebuilding Yahoo.

    Several pieces of Yahoo's empire still emit some of the shine of its old brand -- sports, news and finance are ones most frequently mentioned. And there have emerged a number of apps and sites that are innovating in these areas. Vox Media, owner of rising-star The Verge and the 321 sports blogs on SB Nation, could be a big expense well worth the price. Apps like Flipboard and Twitter-based services like News.me would give Yahoo a strong foothold in the emerging world of news delivery.

    There are other neighborhoods of the web that Yahoo could buy its way into if it would only open up its (potentially) fat wallet. Vimeo, for years YouTube's potentially talented little brother, could be snatched from IAC/Interactive (IACI) After all, Barry Diller loves nothing more than being involved in a good deal. A music-streaming service like Rhapsody, independent from its long-time parent RealNetworks (RNWK) since 2010, could be the music service Yahoo Music always wanted to be.

    Finally, there are valuable assets hidden inside Yahoo's culture of suffocation. Flickr was once a brilliant acquisition that, despite Yahoo's intention to leave it to its own devices, was smothered in bureaucratic styrofoam. Why didn't Yahoo build its social strategy around Flickr, instead of swallowing it into its own ham-fisted social vision? And why did Yahoo never turn Flickr into an app with Instagram-like potential?

    Ah well, we're here to look at Yahoo's potential future, not its past missteps. If Yahoo is going to buy up innovative startups to build its future on, it will have to let their ideas guide the company forward -- and not engulf them into a dying and stultifying culture that still believes it knows best. Because if anything is clear now, it's that Yahoo doesn't know what is best for itself. Facebook paid a steep price for Instagram to learn -- and follow -- what Instagram knew about the mobile web, not to suck its blood dry.

    Finally, Yahoo's recovery is over if it keeps stooping to the vile level of the patent troll. It will drive away the engineers and independent developers vital to its future success. On the web, nothing taints a brand faster than suing a company that is smart enough to capitalize on ideas you had but didn't know what to do with. Don't sue them, work with them to learn from them.

    So there's the road to a Yahoo recovery, as I see it: Sell the Asian assets; don't give the cash to shareholders but invest it, shrewdly, in smart startups; learn from those startups how to thrive on the web in 2012; and use patents as a defense, not an offense.

    If Yahoo can do that, it only has a fighting chance - but perhaps its best fighting chance in five years. If it can't do that, then it's better off liquidating everything it's built for the past 18 years and handing the cash over to shareholders. It's your call, Yahoo.

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