Jerry Yang - Slugworth to Google's Willy Wonka
How did it come to this?
You Yahoo! Ever since Wonka's Chocolate Factory in Mountain View started serving queries, it has been a living monument to the failure of Sunnyvale's Slugworth - and just about everything that has gone wrong can be blamed on Jerry Yang.
From the days of Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web, Yang has been a constant pain in the ass to anyone with a financial interest in the company. Not heeding the investors' advice to take your money and shut the fuck up like David Filo did, Jerry Yang systematically destroyed shareholder value, employee morale, and just the general sense in the industry that anybody at Yahoo! has their shit together.
Yahoo! is now on its deathbed as Microsoft is watching through the window, hoping that it doesn't get stuck with the funeral arrangements. Google, in its characteristically understated sense of superiority, has no words, but the enlightened-San-Franciscan-I-told-you-so smirk on its face says it all. As with the degenerate drug user who took a taste of tina at a party and years later ended up a full blown crystal meth addict living in a park in the Mission, you have to ask: How did it come to this?
Failing to Enslave the Oompah Loompahs
From its beginning, Yahoo! attracted mediocrity in engineering. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, on the other hand, realized that not only do you need to hire the best engineers to have a successful software company, you also need to make them love you unconditionally. To cultivate that kind of blind faith, a quality Loompah needs an interesting project. It may not always make immediate business sense, but it's the only way, if you want the servitude just right. Once you've convinced a Loompah that you really have his best interest at heart, you can put him on a boring, money-making project for a while. It's this machinery that has kept Wonka rolling in cash, but made every product beyond Gmail a dud.
An alpha nerd applying for a job at Yahoo! will likely be turned off by the selection of PHP as a first order programming language. In the programming world, PHP is considered an “aw, how cute” language. Google uses C++, which is sure to attract a top-notch engineer whose only way to express his masculinity is the speed with which he can ace an academic recursive programming problem and the condescending modesty he has while explaining the solution. A good Loompah will be much more stimulated by Google's interview process than Yahoo!'s. It is a little known fact that when interviewing for a position in engineering, candidates at Google are not only graded on the efficiency and correctness of their solutions, but also their ability to deliver the answer in the form of a short song and dance routine. No such evaluation is made at Yahoo!.
Google Loompahs are completely protected from the outside world. They don't have to deal with scary things like commuting to work or paying for lunch. Wonka provides all, and in return, he expects your devotion. Yahoo! doesn't run a massive transit system to shuttle employees back and forth to work, and they charge for lunch in the cafeteria. In Silicon Valley, that kind of abusive treatment is just tacky. This creates the difference between Google-Loompahs and Yahoo! employees: at Yahoo!, the managers try to forcibly shackle the employees, while at Google, the Loompahs demand their shackles and will raise hell if they don't get them.
While hiring issues and entertainment of engineers aren't directly Jerry Yang's fault, they are still within his general blast radius of failure and set the tone for disasters to come. As Chief Yahoo!, nobody was quite sure what Yang was responsible for, but as CEO, it became abundantly obvious what he shouldn't be responsible for.
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