This past week, I needed to install Yahoo Messenger on my new computer at work, and the experience brought home to me what a pushy, desperate pain in the posterior the Yahoo corporation has become, these days.
All I wanted was the instant messaging program, but that was not good enough for Yahoo: It wanted to dump a whole load of junk on me.
First, it compelled me to close the Firefox web browser I had open at the time; then, when I opened Firefox again, I found my starting page had been pre-empted and changed to the Yahoo site.
Furthermore, Yahoo’s pretty much useless toolbar had ensconced itself at the top end of my Firefox window.
I responded by going to Firefox’s internet options to re-set my start page to my normal site; then I went to my “add/remove programs” function and deleted the applications Yahoo had installed: the tool bar application, a Yahoo updater application and something called a “safe browsing” application.
That done, I set about my day’s work again – until I noticed that Yahoo had also reset the search bar in the top right corner of Firefox; it had kicked off Google and set itself up as my default search engine, too.
I quickly nixed that idea, which was easily done by just re-selecting Google in the drop down menu beside that search space.
None of this was a very big deal, really, though it was an annoying waste of my time and my computer’s cycles.
Later that same day, though, Yahoo made a nuisance of itself yet again.
As happens from time to time, an alert from Sun Microsystems popped up on my screen, informing me that a new version of its Java software was available for download.
For reasons of security and functionality, I am quite religious about keeping my Java current, so I quickly agreed to the download.
I was busy with other tasks at the time, and only at the last moment remembered to check out the installation panel.
Sure enough, there it was: The little tick box I remembered from my previous Java update – with a proactive tick in the box labelled, “install Yahoo toolbar.”
I removed the tick mark from the box, thereby avoiding a repeat of the Yahoo intrusion I had only just recovered from.
Basically, all this represents very bad manners on Yahoo’s part, and explains why they are a company with a very shaky-looking future.
Though there are a few things it does well – like its messaging program, and its fantasy sports service – Yahoo has been outclassed and overtaken by competitors like Google and Facebook in very key areas of internet search, e-mail and social networking.
A half dozen years ago or so, it was the predominant internet search engine, gobbling up smaller contenders like AltaVista, and moving into competition with Microsoft by buying up Rocketmail and renaming it Yahoo Mail.
Since that time, though, it has been steadily out-innovated and out-performed, and has seen its market share in most areas steadily decline.
Today, Google has an 88 per cent share of the web-search market (meaning 88 per cent of all web searches on the internet are made on their service), compared to Yahoo’s paltry seven per cent.
Yahoo has attempted to deal with that problem by striking an alliance with Microsoft’s Bing search site to try to get more critical mass; but that manoeuvre has run into a potential roadblock as the United States Department of Justice investigates the deal to see if it violates US antitrust laws.
A few months ago, Yahoo finally threw in the towel on its venture into social networking, when it closed out its Yahoo 360 service, with the promised replacement service still lost in the vaporous future.
Yahoo Mail continues to be the overwhelming leader in web e-mail services, with 106 million accounts, but Google’s Gmail is proving to be a growing threat to their ascendancy there, too.
Over the last year, Gmail grew by 25 per cent (compared to Yahoo Mail’s 16 per cent), to become the third largest web mail service provider with 37 million clients (Windows Live Hotmail is currently number two, with 47 million).
It is easy to understand, then, why Yahoo has become so aggressive in its attempts to capture market share; but that does not justify the corporate bad manners they have been showing, lately.
Computer users are generally pretty attached to the look and feel of their web browsers, and to the search tools they use.
Busting in on those things uninvited (particularly when you come in through the back door, as in the case of that Java update) is more likely to tick people off than to win them over.
It would be a shame to see Yahoo fail entirely, since it does provide such good messaging and e-mail services; but it has only itself and its questionable marketing practices to blame if it ends up in the corporate trash heap.
Rick Steele is a technology
junkie who lives in Whitehorse.