AltaVista: Mountain nightfall…

As of today, altavista.com has been officially shut down and is just another redirect to your “local” Yahoo! starting page. Who cares? Not many. Which possibly is one of the problems, considering altavista.com used to be the predominant search engine for quite a while back then before we saw the rise of Google.

And, all technological and product strategy aspects of things aside, there is a personal point of looking at this. Same as the (by then, for my tastes) rather peculiar layout of Sun workstation keyboards or, later, that chunky, clumsy, memory-leak-laden beast that Netscape Navigator for Unix platforms always used to be, the blue/white mountain logo that appeared on late 1990s altavista.com is pretty closely tied to my first ever Internet or WWW experiences – back then when GeoCities neighborhoods still used to be ‘cool’ and everyone tried to get her or his little site on the web listed in some sort of web ring all along with other sites, in the end just another way of trying to get visitors to pages and make people aware of whatever one considered important enough to spend time on it – time dealing with it, time to write about it, time to even at least partially learn HTML and all these things to in the end get things “on the web” through that noisy 56k modem dialup line.

Most of these things have changed. Modem lines have been replaced with “internet connectivity” way faster even via wireless links on most mobile devices. The need to know about HTML, CSS and friends, though still helpful and interesting, is not necessary anymore to the majority of users who “just” want to put content online, whichever kind of content it eventually might be. Web worlds such as GeoCities have been replaced by social networks, by Facebook, Google+ and a bunch of similar open and closed worlds doing effectively the same and more. And, ultimately, web rings, web directories and “early day” search engines have been replaced by Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo. “Replaced”, indeed: Though early technologies such as altavista.com kept serving users for quite some years, it seems most of them in the end failed to move ahead, failed to offer new reasons to make people come back rather than go with any of the new offerings out there.

And these other offerings, ultimately, by now will prevail while altavista.com is being closed down. Bad luck? Axed in course of a cruel business decision? Discontinued after virtually being “abandoned” without much vision of any kind for the last bunch of years, to say the very least? Maybe. In the end, to me, it’s the shutdown of a service I haven’t seriously used in ages. Same as I haven’t made much use of 56k modems recently – for good reasons, I’d say. So the only thing left is wondering whether, in the end, altavista.com might have been better off on their own, as part of a small, enthusiastic crowd of developers yet without Yahoo!, same as GeoCities or (eventually) Flickr and Tumblr. But that’s possibly another kind of story…

Yahoo! – Tumblr, Flickr and then some… ?

If you think Facebooks acquisition of Instagram involved an incredibly large amount of money, think again: As of yesterday, Yahoo! has announced to acquire Tumblr for an amount of money even larger. Things to follow are more or less as expected: Y!’s Marissa Mayer promises to not screw things up and some sites, such as wordpress.com, obviously sees the first users fleeing from Tumblr in course of that.

Hmmm. I am not sure what to think of that. Leaving the amounts of money involved here aside for a moment: I am curious to see how this will, in the end, turn out for both Yahoo! and Tumblr. Especially, I wonder whether it will keep running Tumblr the way it used to run by now, assuming that, these days, it seems Yahoo! is perceived by many as “just” a large corporate structure, and this also can be seen all along the lines of the Tumblr acquisition: In the past, many people (including myself) obviously used Tumblr as sort of a digital representation of a napkin for collecting images, snippets of text, quotes and anything else that in some way seemed worth noting or collecting. There wasn’t a real understanding of or identity associated with Tumblr, it just was “Tumblr”. By now, all of a sudden, it is next to Yahoo!, and the message that comes across is a whole load of analysts talking fuzz about Yahoo! utilizing Tumblr to “extend its service offerings to that younger target group so far attracted by Tumblr yet not reached by Yahoo!s other offerings” – yes, maybe Yahoo! will benefit from people perceiving Tumblr as “fresh”, “innovative” and “creative”; but maybe, worse, Tumblr will suffer from people perceiving Yahoo! as a business-first operation that didn’t feel “innovative” or “fresh” at all throughout at least half of the last decade..

In the end, it’s just guessing, and we’ll see what will happen to both. After all, if there’s anyone out there likely to push Yahoo! forth, it definitely might be Marissa Mayer. And, maybe, in the end, they’ll do well after all, as the Tumbl acquisition wasn’t the only thing that changed at Yahoo! yesterday: It seems that, without too much ado, Flickr has seen a major update technically, both the web version and at the very least the Android app (can’t comment on the iOS one). As to be expected, there’s already quite a dispute going on in the Flickr forums on whether this is or ain’t a good thing visually. In the end, it seems the first major update in quite a while, and by now it finally is on par with what other inferior photo sharing communities tend to offer these days. Visually well done, at least, and I am sure this way they got all it takes to attract new users.

Unfortunately, all along the way, they removed their original “Pro” / paid subscription model, turning it into an annual fee to “just” keep you from seeing any advertisement in your stream. I seriously hope this will see reconsideration as, before, “Pro” was all about paying for service and getting something in advance, and be that just for being a “paying customer” and not completely at the mercy of a commercial provider. I just refreshed Flickr Pro a while ago, and thought I’ll keep doing so in the future, too. Again I am unsure…