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What if Yahoo acquired PageRank?

milivella [PersonRank 10]

Thursday, November 1, 2007
12 years ago2,994 views

It's an old story that Page and Brin offered the PageRank algorithm to Yahoo, that rejected it. Now imagine Yahoo *acquired* PageRank. What would be different today?

milivella

James Xuan [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

Well Yahoo! would use the pagerank system

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

I think an idea or even algorithm on its own is not worthwhile without some people dedicated to see it through, to work on its potential, to fine-tune it and amend it when changes are necessary, to build the hardware infrastructure behind it. And that's precisely the kind of inspiration in relation to search that Yahoo was missing at the time, precisely what made them ignore Larry and Sergey perhaps.

So if you ask what if they hadn't rejected it, then in a way Yahoo wouldn't have been themselves, but a different company – a company that in the late 1990s would have understood the high importance of search. (A company unlike Yahoo, AltaVista, Microsoft etc. in the late 1990s... AltaVista had all the chances to conquer search, but then had the wrong management.)

So I guess we can also ask: what if Yahoo in the late 1990s would have had people which are very influential in the company to crack their heads on search, focus on getting people to figure out algorithms, hire brilliant researchers, see this whole thing through and so on? I guess in that case, chances are they might have come up with something similar to PageRank on their own. Perhaps it would have been presented in a much more cluttered way, perhaps it would have taken some years longer to feel right. And perhaps search results today would be much more biased, much more in favor of pushing Yahoo products. Maybe the web itself would be much more annoying and commercial and cluttered, because people didn't have such a commercial success (let's assume there would be no Google in that case, as that niche was taken) to point to which managed to do things uncluttered and in the beginning kinda non-biased, neutral, not just linking to their own properties and so on.

milivella [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

I expected an answer like this:

> Maybe the web itself would be much more annoying and commercial and cluttered

(and this is interesting, and could maybe be expanded), but I didn't think about something like this:

> So if you ask what if they hadn't rejected it, then in a way Yahoo wouldn't have been themselves

You're always smart, Philipp! ;)

My immediate personal train of thought (but I got to think about it more): so Google changed the web because they didn't think about money since the first moment: "pure" research came first. But what is the situation like today? Let's imagine two young researchers come with a brilliant idea; they'll build a startup, and in 6 months it will be bought by Google (they don't do the Yahoo's error!). So, they won't change the reality of the web like Google did. Am I missing something?

milivella

SEOpittfall [PersonRank 1]

12 years ago #

I think that PageRank does not a search engine make, however, the concept of PageRank and developing the tools to calculate it definitely proved that Larry and Sergey knew what it would take to build a better engine.

It is the "better engine" that is the cornerstone of Google. If Yahoo had realized the risk from these two, they would have snapped it up in a heartbeat. I think Google realizes that they are not the only one with great ideas, hence the purchase of many new startups that (like Larry and Sergey did with PageRank) have proven that they could be a long term threat, or a long term asset.

milivella [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

> Now imagine Yahoo *acquired* PageRank. What would be different today?

It's time for my opinion. The possible differences would be:

- No Google philosophy. There are some principles that no company adopted before Google: i.e. "research first, and the money will come", or "the answer is always an algorithm", or "give the users the best and fastest way to exit your site". Maybe, without the successful example of Google, nobody would try similar ways.

- No Google products. Some products are here only because Google thought of them and was able to give them away for free: i.e. Google Book Search and Gmail. This stuff doesn't give immediate revenue, so a company without a Google mentality and the Google success wouldn't release them.

- More space to a new approach. I've already written that, today, two guys with revolutionary ideas (like Brin and Page were) would not be forced to go with their own forces: after 6 months or so, their startup would be bought by Google. But then, their ideas wouldn't find their ways in the world (in the same way, if Yahoo bought Google, the geek Google philosophy would have not been developed). (But a friend of mine told me: maybe, with the millions of dollars given to them by Google, the ex-startupers can develop their revolutionary ideas anyway...)

milivella

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

- My Hotmail account would still have 200 KB... :)

milivella [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

Maybe the interface of many sites (or the behavior of many users) would be different. E.g. take YouTube: you have promoted and featured videos, categories and channels, but (if I'm not wrong) the main way to browse the site is the search box; when my friends tell me of a video, they all say "search for x, this is the first (or second, etc.) result". Searching as the main way to interact with hypertexts: this is the effect of a trust in the power of search that Google helped to build.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

Searching was also the main navigational approach for many of us before they discovered Google, e.g. by using AltaVista. I think the users understood this very well, it was only the big companies that didn't get it and de-emphasized search. And when they did, people were looking for a better search tool...

Yahoo Disciple [PersonRank 0]

12 years ago #

>> Maybe the web itself would be much more annoying and commercial and cluttered
Now even google has started to have menu on their main page,as steve ballmer quotes "Google u are getting older like us" . As company grows they loose fresh ideas, and focus on managing the current products.

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