Homo homini rodentius est

Yahoo needs a strong husband

Yang Drone
Haven’t you heard? Resistance is futile.

While the ongoing Yahoo-Microsoft nuptials play out (picture a lumbering brutish Steve Ballmer of Microsoft dragging Yahoo’s squealing Yang by the hair to the altar), those of us who actually consume their services are left wondering what the impact will be of the seemingly inevitable consummation. Up until today I was in the camp who thinks it would be a bad marriage from the start because of cultural and technological differences. As a web developer who does more and more work outside of the Microsoft ecosystem I’ve come to depend on the tools and expertise that Yahoo makes freely available to those developing against open standards. There is a veritable treasure trove of material available from the [Yahoo Developer Network] site, including invaluable guidance on development best practices for “exceptional performance”. I admit, working fast and (often) dirty in a fast-paced company, I usually can only aspire to the kind of clean coding that Yahoo advocates — but it was comforting knowing that there were places like Yahoo where passionate people did the right thing as a matter of their culture. And it was the loss of that kind of culture that seemed at risk in the Microsoft takeover.

Then I did a little test. I compared the client-side code delivered to my browser by the portals of Yahoo (Yahoo.com), Google (iGoogle) and Microsoft (MSN.com). What I found surprised me: by far, Microsoft’s code was cleaner and more efficient. The entire MSN homepage clocked in at just 192K of code (html + javascript). Google unloaded 234K of code, but Yahoo dumped 384K of code — a huge amount for a web page. What was more surprising (and disappointing) was that inspection of the Yahoo code showed that it was a hopeless hairball of CSS and Javascript that violated most of the recommendations their own [“exceptional performance”] evangelists tout. I wouldn’t want to be the guy who has to maintain that site… Just for kicks I submitted all three sites to the W3C [site validator] — the code cop of the interweb. Only Microsoft’s site passed. Now I understand why the Yahoo Developer Network has videos showing their standards evangelists presenting internally — they’re trying to convert the brethren.

In retrospect, it kind of makes sense. The dope on Yahoo and Google is that they are cool places to work; very young, very quick. Microsoft, on the other hand is the Borg — a collective of corporate drones; not young, not quick. But as anyone who has worked in a large company knows — youth and speed is often a deadly combination. Young workers — and young companies, too — can benefit from the structure that a boring established organization can confer. I think Yahoo could benefit from the cultural embrace of the Borg — and the collective could benefit from an infusion of new ideas. Time will tell.

Portal War

Related Posts

    • None Found