Antes de Google, Yahoo! dominaba internet. Era la compañía más codiciada, y su buscador,

Antes del año 2000, cuando los celulares eran unos ladrillos, y sólo podías jugar “a la culebrita” con ellos, cuando el programa que “la rompía” era Hugo, cuando el profe Rossa decía sólo inocentes chistes infantiles, en fin, antes de René de la Vega, antes de los realities, antes de Fotolog y antes de Google, el rey de internet se llamaba Yahoo. Si no tenias un “latinmail”, tenías un correo Yahoo. La página de inicio en el navegador, era la de Yahoo. Dominó el mercado de los buscadores de internet. Dominó la publicidad por internet. Estaba en todas partes, y en algún momento fue valorada en 125.000 millones de dólares. Pues bien, resulta que en julio pasado, la compraron en 4 mil millones. ¿Qué pasó? Es lo que les contaremos ahora gracias a El Definido.

Yahoo!: su época de oro

En el principio, internet era pequeña. Bueno, la www. En esa primera época, la reina indiscutida de las páginas de búsqueda, era Altavista, fundada en 1995. Un año antes, Jerry Yang y David Filo fundaron una página, llamada “Jerry and David’s guide to the World Wide Web” (?!), que catalogaba todas las otras páginas en categorías. Entonces, si quería hallar una página sobre arte, pinchábamos la sección “Arte”. ¿Ineficaz? ¡En estos días, por supuesto! Pero recordemos que hablamos de un mundo en que había sólo 2.738 sitios web, y donde navegar por internet aún se veía como algo más bien de ñoños y nerds (aquí puedes ver una imagen de Yahoo! en esa época).

En 1995, se cambiaron el nombre a “Yahoo!”, y poco a poco, fueron cambiando su esquema, y comenzaron a comprar los servicios de Altavista, para ser también un buscador. Empezaron a cobrar, para posicionar imágenes de compañías (“banners”) en su página. Cuando Yahoo! entró en la bolsa de valores en abril de 1996, fue tasada en la inmensa cantidad de 848 millones de dólares. Tenían más de 100 millones de usuarios. Estaban en la gloria.

Entre 1996 y 1999, Yahoo! fue lejos el buscador más utilizado en el mundo. Más que Ask Jeeves (¿cómo dijo?), más que Lycos (¿ah?), ¡incluso más que Excite! (¿¿qué??).

El mundo era bello, y todos estaban felices. Hasta que llegó el reventón de la llamada “burbuja punto com”. Y después, Google cambió todo el esquema de negocios.

La burbuja punto com

¿Qué fue esa famosa burbuja? Fue un breve momento de la historia, en que todo el mundo enloqueció con esa novedad que era internet, y empezaron a aparecer un montón de páginas, que a veces eran negocios viables y a veces no hacían nada (Los Simpsons tienen un episodio clásico, que representa a la perfección el espíritu de la época).

Pero no sólo eso. Los inversionistas dijeron: “Ok, acá hay millones de clientes apareciendo cada mes. Si invierto mucho, tarde o temprano recuperaré mis ganancias”. Esto se tradujo en una mentalidad orientada hacia el gasto demencial que pronto pasó la cuenta. La sagaz idea de esa época, era que no importa lo que la compañía hiciera, debía atrapar a la mayor cantidad de usuarios posibles, sin importar el dinero pues, según esa postura, sería un dinero que pronto se recuperaría. Es una locura, pero a veces el exceso de dinero produce esos lamentables efectos.

Como consecuencia de esta actitud temeraria y codiciosa, primero las compañías crecieron, crecieron, crecieron… y luego, cuando no hubo dinero para pagar las cuentas, estallaron. Y vino el caos, los años 2000 y 2001. Todas las compañías perdieron dinero. El valor conjunto de todas las compañías, disminuyó en un 70%. Era el desastre. Páginas que dominaron el mercado, desaparecieron. Otras, vieron la oportunidad de crecer.

En el caso de Yahoo, hubo también un daño significativo, y decidieron traer a un nuevo CEO (gerente general) para arreglar las cosas. Pero luego, vino Google.

el más utilizado en el mundo. Hace poco, la compañía fue comprada por menos de un décimo de su valor más alto. ¿Qué les pasó?

Documental “La verdadera historia de internet: Burbuja punto com”. Discovery Channel.

Yahoo! decae, y Google triunfa

El año 2000, Yahoo! decide que Google sea su buscador por defecto. Poco a poco, las personas se empiezan a dar cuenta del contraste: Yahoo! estaba cada vez más lleno de publicidad, y era una página cada vez más pesada y confusa, con una odiosa barra que aparecía por todas partes. En cambio, Google tenía un diseño limpio, y publicidad muy discreta (de hecho el modelo “AdWords” cambió por completo la forma de hacer publicidad en internet). Y aunque durante 2004 y 2005 Yahoo! tiene su máxima cotización en bolsa (50 mil millones de dólares, dejando a un lado la especulación de la burbuja punto com), ya existían indicios del desastre. De partida, Yahoo! nunca fue clara en su definición respecto a qué querían ser o hacer. Tenían aspectos de comunidad de usuarios (¡quién no recuerda Yahoo Juegos! bueno al menos yo sí, estoy viejito ji ji), tenían correo electrónico, eran un buscador, también entregaban noticias… en fin, el exceso de éxito y dinero, les estaba desorientando.

El primer golpe fuerte, vino cuando Google decide jugar en serio, y pone a disposición Gmail. Gmail tenía inicialmente una capacidad de 1 Gb en su casilla… lejos, muy lejos de los 25 megas que entregaba Yahoo Mail, o de los miserables 2 megas (¡dos megas! ¡o sea!) que entregaba Hotmail en su momento. No ayudó tampoco que el nuevo CEO fuera Terry Semel, que venía del mundo del espectáculo (de Warner Bros), y no estaba familiarizado con la lógica de los medios en internet. Es más, desaprovechó la oportunidad de comprar Google, de comprar Facebook, y de comprar Doubleclick, que era la segunda compañía en anuncios de internet, detrás de Google (y que Google compró el 2007).

Adquirieron Flickr, pero luego no supieron sacarle partido. Algo parecido a lo que ocurrió con el alguna vez popular servicio Geocities, que dejaron morir. O lo que pasó posteriormente con Tumblr, que languidece. Y mientras más pasaba el tiempo, más irrelevante se volvía Yahoo!. Aparte, más y más crecía Google, quienes sí tomaron decisiones muy acertadas (y algunas desafortunadas, también).

La última tabla de salvación “real”, fue la oferta que hizo Microsoft para comprar a Yahoo el año 2008 ¡en 44.6 mil millones de dólares! Pero Jerry Yang se opuso. Pensó que su compañía valía mucho más.

Luego de eso, vino caos y desconcierto. Pasaron 4 CEOs en 3 años (incluyendo uno expulsado por mentir en su currículum), y llegó la gran Marissa Mayer. Marissa era una de las profesionales más cotizadas de Google, fue responsable por el diseño limpio de su página web, una de las tres personas responsables del algoritmo de AdWords (que entrega el grueso de las ganancias de Google), y supervisaba el lanzamiento de los productos, estableciendo el momento preciso para que Google entregara un nuevo producto. Hubo grandes expectativas. Lamentablemente, el daño ya estaba hecho. Y aunque Mayer llevó a la compañía desde un valor de 18 mil millones, a 40 mil millones durante su período, una complicación que venía desde el 2005 terminó por ponerle la lápida a la compañía.

Curiosamente, el final llegó producto de una inversión muy, muy exitosa. Yahoo! compra en 2005, el 40% de una naciente startup china, llamada Alibaba. Con el tiempo, ésta crece tanto, que los 1.000 millones de dólares invertidos, se convierten en 80.000 mil millones. Al pasar los años, ese 40% se reduce a un 15%, que aún son unos buenos 38 mil millones de dólares. El problema fue cómo retirar ese dinero sin pagar impuestos. ¿Por qué? Porque los impuestos a esa cantidad sideral de dinero, superaban con mucho la capacidad de pago de Yahoo!, pues son 10 mil millones de dólares, aproximadamente, y la compañía tuvo pérdidas por 490 millones durante 2016.

Entonces, la solución para el “problema”, consistió en vender las partes que no producían ganancias. O sea, venderlo todo, excepto Alibaba y Yahoo! Japón, que a diferencia del resto de su compañía madre, tomó buenas decisiones pues siempre tuvo mucha independencia. Así que se vendió todo a Verizon (que también es dueña de otro fósil de la época “punto com”, AOL), en $4.800 millones de dólares, apenas una fracción del valor que hacía 9 años Jerry Yang rechazó por ser muy bajo. Y aún así fue “sufrido”. A fines del año pasado, se supo que hackearon masivamente a 500 millones de cuentas de Yahoo!, y Verizon presionó muy fuerte para pagar mil millones menos, por los problemas de seguridad implícitos. Sin embargo, ya estaba todo firmado, y no había nada en los términos del contrato que permitiera ese cambio. Al fin, después de mucho sufrir, recién este pasado 9 de enero se confirmó la venta de la compañía, la salida de Marissa Mayer, y el cambio de nombre de Yahoo! a “Altaba”. Sin duda, el final de una era.

By: eldefinido

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