In a surprising move, technology giant Yahoo has announced the removal of Google and Facebook access to its services. Since 2010 Yahoo allowed access to some of its popular services such as fantasy sports or image sharing through a Google or Facebook ID. Open ID access was one of the changes brought in by former Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz in an attempt to have exclusive access to user data from Yahoo services without sharing it with the world’s more popular search engine and the world’s largest social networking platform. The reversal is expected to be implemented in a phased manner across all of Yahoo’s services starting with its NCAA sports service, Yahoo Sports Tourney Pick’Em.
Yahoo’s large range of services—including travel, news, sports, finance, weather, food, dating and its popular image sharing site, Flickr—permitted Facebook and Google users to sign in without a Yahoo ID. In a bold move that has baffled several technologists, the internet giant is being seen as forcing users to obtain a Yahoo email address in order to access specialized services such as Yahoo’s fantasy sports leagues—one of the most popular services in the United States. A spokesperson for the company commented,”Yahoo is continually working on improving the user experience and our new process will allow us to offer the best personalized experience to everyone,” This new direction appears to be a reversal engineered by Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer who took over the reins from interim CEO Ross Levinsohn in July 2012. Since then, Yahoo’s stock has seen a meteoric rise—almost 130 percent—a phenomenon that is believed to be a result of Mayer’s shakeup of Yahoo‘s administrative hierarchy and its stake in the Alibaba Group, an e-commerce group based out of Hangzhou, China.
As users find their Facebook and Google access to Yahoo services removed, the company has indicated that users will be able to migrate their existing settings and services as is to their new Yahoo accounts. Mayer has stated that the decision was motivated by the company’s renewed focus on search and targeted advertising. She also stated that Yahoo was in possession of some of the best data on the world wide web— and that what the company knows about its users makes Yahoo services and properties some of the most valuable in the world. Despite the claim, Yahoo’s sales of search ads fell about 4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 while banner and video ads showed a decline of 6 percent, a trend that Mayer will find hard to justify despite the increased traffic to the site.
Yahoo’s decision to remove Facebook and Google access has drawn both criticism and praise from technology bloggers and financial analysts around the world. To the detractors, the move is seen as a poor attempt at narrowing the significant gap between Yahoo and its competitors as well as a restrictive customer practice. The company’s supporters laud the move as a bold and decisive one that is a sign of the technology major’s intent to take Facebook and Google head on in both search and services. The company’s recently announced partnership with the San Francisco business review site Yelp in the area of search seems to confirm this. However, Yahoo’s fortunes will hinge on far more than the closure of a few doors and some reorganization.
By Grace Stephen