In the beginning, Yahoo was a directory of links to websites. I was tempted to write that it was "just" a directory of links, but at the time when it was launched, that was something the online world needed — worthy of more than just a "just." Today Yahoo announced their partnership with Tivo, taking another step in the reinvention of Yahoo from a content aggregator to a content distributor and creator. What interests me about this move is not the fact that they have partnered with the #1 revered "TV-killing" company myth that is Tivo … but rather in the evolution of the portal to a media giant rivalling many long established media outlets. Even AOL and Time Warner were unable to create a market dominance when combining their powers. But Yahoo competes against Google, MSN, CNN, WebMD, and hundreds of other smaller niche sites. And often wins.
In Santa Clara last week, I was thinking about this darling of Silicon Valley and how much of their success has been due to timing more than just pure innovation. Timing the market is a fine art, as they are again displaying with their well timed partnership with Tivo moving Yahoo firmly into the "digital home." As the concept of the digital home begins to gain ground, portability and ease of use will define success for many consumer electronics products. Right in the middle of it will remain Yahoo, who have taken their audience and success as a portal and continually moved closer and closer to the world of entertainment and content creation. Ultimately, the strategy of this shift has put Yahoo in place to not only define standards to help make the digital home a reality – but also gives them a significant head start on competitors and status as the most desirable online partner on the web today.