Home Interview with Yahoo’s Bradley Horowitz and Caterina Fake

Interview with Yahoo’s Bradley Horowitz and Caterina Fake

At the Supernova conference last week I had the pleasure of interviewing two of
Yahoo’s rising stars, VP of Product Strategy Bradley Horowitz and leader of the
Technology Development Group Caterina Fake (one of the co-founders of Flickr). They are
both part of what is loosely termed an R&D team, which other Yahoo business units can tap
into. We discussed a variety of Yahoo’s products and the general product strategy of
Yahoo going forward.

Open platforms and dev

Bradley said that Yahoo
these days is all about open platforms – and discovering what people do with all the data
that comes from that. Caterina said that the real interesting stuff comes from the
creativity and invention this unleashes in people external to Yahoo. The phrase “Opening
up Yahoo” was one Bradley mentioned in his speech to the Supernova attendees.

One of the recent success stories of Yahoo has been Yahoo! Hack Day,
an internal developers project at Yahoo led by Chad Dickerson. The spirit of Hack Day is
now being transferred to the Yahoo Developer
, Yahoo’s external development resource. Chad has recently taken the reins of
YDN to make that happen.

Yahoo.com and Mail

We discussed a little about the recent re-design of
the yahoo.com homepage, a story which I covered extensively
on Read/WriteWeb (at that time I interviewed Bradley’s boss, Chief Product Officer Ash
Patel). Bradley noted that the yahoo.com homepage re-design was a step towards the
functionality of MyYahoo
– i.e. it’s moving from a page model to a more interactive
model. I asked if video and television-like content will increase on yahoo.com and
Bradley responded by pointing to Yahoo! Video, which is getting more and more
uptake. Also the new Yahoo.com homepage has video (and Ajax) elements.

I can’t recall how I got on to this topic, but I mentioned how Gmail was a new email
paradigm and that I loved how Google had changed the concept of web email. Bradley made a
good point in response: that the new Yahoo Mail (even though it sticks with the existing paradigm) now integrates RSS and there are more PIM
features coming. With Yahoo, because they have such a mainstream user base, it’s a case
of doing a deliberate switchover of functionality – rather than changing the ballgame as
Google is wont to do. The same response was given when I mentioned my current hobby
horse, widgets. i.e. MyYahoo will make more use of widgets when it makes sense to
transition their mainstream users over to that kind of functionality.

Yahoo Search evolving into social search

One of the more interesting topics of discussion was how Yahoo Search is evolving into
a more social construct. We’re seeing evidence of it now, with Y! Answers – which allows
users to search for things that don’t yet have an answer. Also when you are logged in,
there are options for Yahoo My Web results and IM integration. I asked how many Y!
Answers were in the database so far and I was told approximately 10 Million, although
this isn’t a confirmed figure.

Organic growth via social networks

The goal in general for Yahoo products is to achieve
organic growth via social relationships. Flickr is a great example of this – it’s how
Flickr grew and will continue to grow, via the larger Yahoo network they’re now a part
of. Caterina pointed out that if Flickr did a Superbowl ad, then users that came to
Flickr via the ads probably wouldn’t understand the product. But if users come to Flickr
via their social network, then they will have a better understanding of the product and
hence there’s a better chance they’ll use it. I think Caterina made a similar point (from
a different angle) in a recent
when she said “the sociality is definitely part of the ecosystem” for

All in all I’m always impressed by the number of smart people Yahoo has working for
them now – and how open they are to tapping the tech community for ideas and inspiration
(and vice versa!). I wish Google was more like this, but I guess they have their

Photos: freshelectrons and geodog

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