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  • Writer's picturekyle Hailey

Why did Google succeed? Yahoo shuts altavista down

Yahoo shut  Altavista down a couple of years ago. Why did Google succeed when Altavista had index the web before Google ever started?

Dan Rosensweig former COO at Yahoo responding to the question: Why did Google succeed in search over Yahoo?

We were many things to many people.
They were one great thing to everybody
Sometimes it's just what you believe in.
It's how the question get's phrased.
When I came to yahoo people were not interested
in investing in search because there was no way
to make money.
Google didn't care about making money
They cared about improving peoples ability to search
and they were originally going to be enterprise.
Yahoo was actually using their search engine.
Then something happened.
Somebody created a business model around search.
To get around patents Google improved on Overtures business model.
The logic [Yahoo] had was you bid the most you come up first.
It was sort of self policing.
Why would you bid the most to come up first
if you weren't the most relevant?
Google figured something out.
It's not who bids the most,
its how you generate the most amount of value
off each click.
Its a combination of location and price and click through.
That enabled them to make more money on every click
than we did which allowed them to  invest a lot more money in increased
monetization engines and then buy distribution.
They could buy distribution at half the cost that we could
or a third the cost that we could.
Here we were as a public company trying to balance multiple
businesses and they were focused on one
and they were making more money on every click
and they were able to run the table successfully in search.

Why do companies succeed? Big question with lots of answers. Google and the mass media seem to propagate the story that Google’s search is better and that’s why Google won. Clean and simple. Black and white. People like black and white, but the story is more complicated than that. The search space was competitive when Google came on the scene. I personally used Altavista before Google came one the scene and well after. I compared many of the search results and I was always impressed with Altavista. Google finally won my heart when the came out with The simple map interface was so logical and so simple that it put mapquest to shame for good reason.

But the story of search much more complicated and interesting. For more reading check out

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