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12/31/2007
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Michael Singer
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Google Search Nets Chief Performance Yahoo

As of Jan. 7, Steve Souders says he is trading in his Yahoo hat for a Google one. It's a boon for Google, but is it a bust for Yahoo? And, did anyone not see this coming?

As of Jan. 7, Steve Souders says he is trading in his Yahoo hat for a Google one. It's a boon for Google, but is it a bust for Yahoo? And, did anyone not see this coming?Souders, whose resume includes co-founding Helix Systems and CoolSync as well as working at General Magic, WhoWhere?, and Lycos, made the announcement Monday on his personal Web site. He had been at Yahoo since 2000, working on many of the platforms and products within the company. He ran the development team for My Yahoo before reaching his current position of Chief Performance Yahoo.

Valleywag's swipe at Souder's choice was straightforward: "Souders, who had been with the company since 2000, realizes that making Yahoo's Web sites run faster is like improving the efficiency of the Titanic's steam engines."

Ouch...

In his blog post, investor guru Henry Blodget suggests Souders' departure could be the tipping point for Yahoo's future... the way of AOL. Ugh.

Is Yahoo going to zero? Judging by the number of senior folks who are leaving, plus reports of pitiful sales service, plus search share trends, plus the apparent lack of urgency at the top, this certainly doesn't seem an outrageous conclusion.

And here's another un-outrageous conclusion: If Yahoo can't manage to turn its ship around, it will be the 12-year old Internet industry's biggest disaster story. Yahoo has/had everything: great global brand, awesome financial performance, huge industry lead, the biggest media-company audience in the world, and, unlike the dial-up centric AOL, the right business model. And it still has most of those things.

Indeed...

But was Souder's departure that secret? Should people have seen it coming? Back in November, Steve was invited to talk at a Google Tech Talk Channel event about two developer practices: High Performance Web Sites and YSlow. You can tell from the introduction that Souders is pleased and honored to be invited by the competition to help its engineers understand how to Google themselves better.

The audio is really bad, but if you can get past it, the content is spectacular and provides good tips for SEO managers.

From the video: "Yahoo's Exceptional Performance Team has identified 14 best practices for making Web pages faster. These best practices have proven to reduce response times of Yahoo properties by 25% to 50%. They focus on the front-end, for example, why it's bad to use "@import" for including stylesheets and why ETags disable browser caching."

Souder's book, High Performance Web Sites also is selling well on Amazon, which has a nice little search engine of its own (read: A9) that Google is trying to emulate.

It should be interesting to see how his expertise improves Google's own products, and more important, what Yahoo must do now to counter the loss of one of its key managers.

Feel free to post your thoughts and predictions below.

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