(WYSIWYG – A popular acronym, especially among Web enthusiasts, What You See Is What You Get)
Why do we visit Facebook as often as we do? Are we really thinking ‘let us keep in touch with friends’ or are we just looking for something interesting to see? I would argue that the verb we’re seeking out is ‘see’ and not ‘read’. Almost as soon as we land on Facebook, we’ll find a photo that will make us laugh, or frown, or even jealous – something to break the monotony of the day. It’s no surprise that the world is flocking to similar services such as Instagram or Pinterest that provide interesting visuals in a social context.
Now where would you go if you don’t want to see pictures of your friend’s baby shower or your uncle’s vacation? What about the rest of the action that you’re not connected to – action that happens right in the middle of your neighborhood, or as far away as in another continent. Visually interesting things happen everywhere, be it in sports, politics, markets, events, or simply everyday life. What is the destination that comes to mind to ‘see’ this action?
A few startups are making attempts to create such a destination but their focus is limited to niche verticals (e.g. handmade items) or certain devices (e.g. iPad). However, no Web giant has made ‘visual’ its primary value proposition to the user. This spot is still available, and if I had a vote in Marissa Mayer’s boardroom I would take that spot for Yahoo.
We’ve all been waiting for Yahoo to do something spectacular, with Flickr, and even with News and Sports and every other segment where Yahoo has a say. There is no doubt that the Visual Web is here and will dominate. The mind blowing photograph is now the preferred mode of starting a dialogue on the Web. If history is anything to go by, then those who start dialogues win BIG (Google with search, or Amazon with Earth’s largest selection).
In my opinion, Yahoo was too late to signal its mobile focus by giving every employee a smart phone, or too late to ‘bring a Web ordered for you’ as Mayer mentioned in her recent interviews. Mobile is an access point and Personalization by itself is not visibly quantifiable. Instead, Yahoo could focus on visual discovery, on visual search, and on photo-creators.
Image search today is far from relevant – if you search for a person’s name, it throws mug shots at you. Yahoo has the technical resources to launch a powerful service for visual discovery and visual search and make that the default choice of users. Moreover, publishers are fed up of SEO overriding their creative decisions. I doubt Pinterest or Airbnb are worrying about SEO. They’re worrying about the awesomeness factor in their photos, and how to create or identify more of them.
Photo creators hold the keys to the Visual Web. A person with a smartphone witnessing something remarkable creates news. Flickr could become the workstation of photographers worldwide. Providing them with beautiful tools for searching, beautifying, publishing, organizing, personalizing, and promoting their work is fundamental to signaling a new Yahoo.
Armed with a focus, Yahoo could acquire products that are visual from day one – e.g. Flipboard or its smaller competitors – thereby reinforcing a simpler vision that users can identify with and applaud.
Gadget, Search, Shopping, Social are taken by the famous four – Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook. The next company to enter the league or to dethrone one of these guys could be ‘Visual’. The world has been unforgivingly asking – ‘What does Yahoo do’? The world needs a simpler answer. As simple as WYSIWYG – Web You ‘See’ Is the Web Yahoo Gets.
I wish for this new picture of Yahoo; it’s not just better, it’s also prettier. And pretty always sells.