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My Yahoo! Years, Part 5: Branding Faux Pas or Branded as Moral Pygmies

Yahoo! was created by Jerry Yang and David Filo while they were studying at Stanford University and began as “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web.” In the spring of 1994, it was renamed Yahoo!, and by 1995, it was incorporated.

According to Wikipedia, they selected the name because it came from Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” and meant rude, unsophisticated and uncouth. This hardly sounds like a good choice for a consumer product.

As a brand name, what does Yahoo! stand for? Unlike Google, Yahoo! has a landing page that offers news, weather and other things like information on movies. While the landing page for other countries is similar, the offerings are not the same. Yahoo! for America and Japan have extensive information on their movie Web sites. Go to France or Mexico and you’ll see a marked difference.

On the Yahoo! landing page for France if you look up Maurice Chevalier, you’ll find a brief paragraph:

Chanteur, "Valentine" (1928)… "Prosper" (1935)… "Ma pomme" (1936)… "Ah ! si vous connaissiez ma poule" (1938)… Si le cinéma français l'a beaucoup boudé, les producteurs américains ont élus le gars de Ménilmuche "The French Lover"…

If you try the U.S. version, you’ll find much more in the way of a biography. Besides that, there is information about awards.

Yahoo! in Mexico and Argentina do not currently have a movie sections where you can look up information. They do have an entertainment section with a movie subsection.

Yahoo! Mexico has an English entry for Carlos Saura’s Goya in Bordeau and oddly, it is in English.

Set in the early 1800s, a tale told in flashbacks by an 82-year-old Spanish artist Francisco Goya, living in exile with the last of his lovers, Leocadia Zorilla de Weiss, and reconstructs the main events of his life for this daughter Rosario. One by one the mysteries surrounding the artist's life are unraveled to unveil the dreams and demons that drove him into exile and are so passionately displayed in his life works.

There is no searchable movie database for the Yahoo! Argentina Web site.

Yahoo!’s U.S. movie Web site has the following on the Goya movie:

Set in the early 1800s, a tale told in flashbacks by an 82-year-old Spanish artist Francisco Goya, living in exile with the last of his lovers, Leocadia Zorilla de Weiss, and reconstructs the main events of his life for this daughter Rosario. One by one the mysteries surrounding the artist's life are unraveled to unveil the dreams and demons that drove him into exile and are so passionately displayed in his life works.

How odd that a Spanish Web site should have the very same paragraph as the U.S. Web site and both in English. The American Web site, however, has a long biography of the Spanish director.

The question becomes one of what does Yahoo! as a brand stand for? How is it serving its customers? Carlos Saura’s 1998 movie Tango was nominated for a foreign film Academy Award. It featured Julio Bocca and Juan Carlos Copes, both well-known Argentine dancers and choreographers. Yet this Spanish film and its director, also known for this flamenco trilogy, is given more space in English on the U.S. site than on the Spanish sites, including the one starring two famous luminaries of Argentina on the Argentine Web site?

While Yahoo! continues to buy new services and properties, it doesn’t seem to care about the quality of the things it already has such as the movie Web sites.

As a news portal, Yahoo! has done much worse.

Yahoo! assisted the Chinese government by giving information that helped identify Wang Xiaoning, an engineer and dissident who had been posting anonymous writings to an Internet mailing list. Wang was arrested in September of 2002. Yahoo! did not immediately come clean and was soundly criticized by a congressional panel, the House Foreign Relations Committee. According to Wired, other writers such as Shi Tao, Li Zhi and Jiang Lijun were imprisoned because of Yahoo! turning over sensitive information.

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