Thanks to CEO Marissa Mayer, a former Googler who is just marking her first year with Yahoo, the Web company is swinging toward a successful turnaround. Mayer came aboard after a string of CEOs set Yahoo's fortunes into a downward spiral. Her experience at Google, where she was employee number 20 and a high-profile VP, is what attracted Yahoo's board to her as a selection for CEO. So far, the board's decision appears to have been the right one.
Some of Yahoo's success in the last year can be pinned on Mayer's revitalization of its mobile apps and services. Though she's killed off a number of products, she's introduced brand new ones that are vastly superior to their predecessors.
In February, Mayer suggested that the company might trash up to 80% of its mobile apps. She didn't take things quite that far, but trimmed duds like its old BlackBerry App, and Mail and Messenger for feature phones. Slicing these apps from its roster helped Yahoo focus on improving the remaining ones.
[ Do you use the Tumblr mobile app? Read Tumblr iPhone Vulnerability: Change Passwords Now. ]
One of the most significant app revamps arrived with a brand new version of Flickr, which has been a Yahoo property for years. The long-ignored app was updated for both iPhones in late 2012 and Android devices in May. The new Flickr has a completely revised user interface as well as expanded tools for editing photos and sharing them with a wide variety of social networks. In addition to the new app, Yahoo gave all Flickr users access to 1 terabyte of online storage for free.
Yahoo introduced new Yahoo Mail apps for Android and iOS this year, as well as new Yahoo Search apps for both platforms. One of the best aspects of the new Yahoo Mail app is its integration with Dropbox, which lets Android and iOS owners easily access and share their Dropbox files via Yahoo Mail. Yahoo debuted a new weather application for the iPhone that is highly regarded thanks to its attractive design and features.
New apps aren't the only splash Yahoo has made in mobile. In May, Yahoo announced a $1.1 billion acquisition of the Tumblr social blogging platform. Although Tumblr's 300 million monthly users mainly access the service through the Web, it also has dedicated mobile apps for both Android and iOS. By acquiring Tumblr, Yahoo bought itself another avenue through which to sell and display ads, something that its competitors Facebook, Google and Microsoft are particularly good at.
Further, Yahoo has acquired a number of other small companies, such as Summly, that provide technology and solutions for mobile apps and services. Though Yahoo has shut many of these smaller businesses down, it has also promised to add their technology to its existing apps and services. In other words, many of Yahoo's acquisitions, which total a mind-boggling 17 in the last year, will help to expand and improve its apps and services down the road.
Thanks to Mayer, Yahoo has spent the last year trimming fat and refocusing on what matters: the mobile market. It is on good footing to start chasing the market leaders, but needs to continue to execute if it wants to make real gains.