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Marissa Mayer solves Yahoo's identity crisis: It's a tech company

March 01, 2013|By Jessica Guynn
  • Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has decided what Yahoo is: A technology company.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has decided what Yahoo is: A technology company. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg )

SAN FRANCISCO -- Yahoo has been searching for its identity for so long, it's downright Freudian.

It could never decide: Was it a digital media company or a technology company?

Chief Executive Marissa Mayer, the former Google executive charged with the herculean task of reviving the struggling Internet pioneer's fortunes, has made it official: Yahoo is now a technology company.

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That's according to the company's annual 10-K report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In it, Yahoo declares itself a "global technology company." Last year it was a "digital media company."

That Yahoo is ditching its digital media moniker is not a big surprise. Mayer, an engineer by training, has clearly telegraphed her intention of making technology Yahoo's top priority (that and making sure everyone shows up at the office). But the new language sends a clear message to the troops and to the world about what to expect from Yahoo.

That was not the case for years. Carol Bartz, goaded by the media, famously got tongue-tied every time she was asked to explain what exactly Yahoo was.

At an industry conference in 2010, the company's then-CEO declared she finally had the answer.

"It has taken me two years but I got it," Bartz said. "It's the largest media, content, communications company in the world."

She managed that mouthful but got her back up when asked if Yahoo still lacked, well, an identity.

"When you get 30 miles outside Silicon Valley and 60 miles out of New York, everyone knows what Yahoo stands for," she said. "They don't ask these trick questions."

A year later, Yahoo was still fielding those trick questions. Bartz had been fired, and product chief Blake Irving took his turn defining Yahoo.

Irving, who joined Yahoo from Microsoft in 2010, said: "What is Yahoo? Simple. It's the premier digital media company. Period. Stop."

Of course, now Irving is history too. (He's CEO of GoDaddy.com). So is interim CEO and Hollywood heavyweight Ross Levinsohn, who planned to build Yahoo into a digital media powerhouse.

Mayer, who took the reins from Levinsohn, has put a permanent end to the controversy and has begun taking the company back to its technology roots. In the process she has begun to put her own stamp on the company.

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