While the story of Yahoo is far from written, 2012 has been far more friendly to the once-giant Internet company than previous years. Making the transition from a company that became famous for search, to a media company, and now back to a technology company has left some heads spinning, and the re-reinvention is certainly not over yet. But there are signs that the company is headed in the right direction again; signs from Wall Street and the press, along with Yahoo’s own actions seem to indicate that the company is being run differently, and is no longer content with being the Internet laughing stock that it was just one or two years ago.
A big part of that has to do with the hiring of Marissa Mayer back in July. Arguably one of the smartest women, if not people, in tech, her background as one of the earliest Google employees gives her real credibility and experience in a leadership role with a proven tech company. Her arrival is changing the culture in a way that no other short-lived Yahoo CEO was able to accomplish — with nothing but her mere presence. Sure, free lunch and free iPhones for employees help, but the fact that Marissa Mayer is a respected individual in Silicon Valley means that, for the first time, employees at Yahoo feel like they’re under the direction of someone who understands how to right the ship. Yahoo has a fair bit of talent already in place; employees who want to help an underdog take on the technology giants. With Mayer at CEO, those employees can begin to feel like they have a shot at competing.
The effect of Mayer’s hiring isn’t just being felt by present and potential employees, and by the tech press. It’s also being felt by Wall Street. For the past year, Yahoo’s stock has mostly sat somewhere between $15 and $16. After a favorable upgrade from Goldman Sachs back in late November, which increased Yahoo’s target price from $22 to $24, the stock price rose and is now approaching $20. It’s not an enormous jump by any means, but consider this: Yahoo’s stock hasn’t been this high since 2008, when Microsoft submitted an unsolicited bid to acquire the company.
The company’s focus also seems to have tightened under Mayer. Known for her decisive decision making, Mayer has quickly filled a number of executive slots at Yahoo with her own picks, and has placed a renewed emphasis on technology that the company previously lacked. One area that has already seen, and will likely continue to see, benefits is mobile. Mayer is extremely bullish on mobile; you can already see that in Yahoo’s recent upgrade to its Flickr app, which now incorporates photo filters. Core Yahoo services, such as Yahoo Mail, have seen big updates, and the company now seems more interested in improving and innovating with these widely-used services instead of letting them collect dust.
And keep this in mind: Yahoo services still boast 700 million users. It’s not a number to be taken lightly. With the right leadership — and I believe Mayer is that — and the right decision-making when it comes to acquisitions and updates of current products, Yahoo has a very real shot at capturing some of the magic it possessed back in its heyday.
With good feelings aplenty, and a nice wrap-up to a year that could have been very forgettable, things at Yahoo are suddenly looking up. Who knows where 2013 will lead the gang in purple, but in 2012, Yahoo seems to finally have some direction and quality leadership at the helm.
That’s why Yahoo is our Biggest Comeback of 2012.