Would Yahoo really drop search?

I mentioned this topic in my article Tuesday after Jerry Yang’s appointment as CEO of Yahoo (YHOO), and the The New York Times devoted a considerable amount of ink to it the next day. This is a bit of an arcane topic to people who aren’t in the biz, but an extremely important one. It essentially suggests that Yahoo should stop investing in its search-advertising platform because it has been such a laggard and instead outsource the function to Google (GOOG). That’s what Yahoo used to do, and there’s widespread agreement that Google is and always will be superior at this to everyone else.

In fact, it’s a classic business-case problem. Should Yahoo let the fact that it has spent billions of dollars buying Inktomi and Overture and investing in its Project Panama stand in the way of making the right financial call? Unemotional business theory suggests that you can’t let past poor decisions stand in the way of good decisions today. Then again, if search advertising is central to what Yahoo does — and that has been management’s position to date — then they simply can’t give up.

I’ve had two interesting responses to my article in the last couple days from executives who think about his stuff all day long. One thinks Yahoo’s preparing to sell itself. The other sees plenty of opportunity. “A CEO who has never run anything large and a president who hasn’t either and came from Wall Street,” wrote one. “Can this truly be anything other than Yahoo pursuing ‘strategic options?'” Said the other: ” There are a lot of people who think that search is still relatively early and that there’s a whole lot of ad technology left to be built in years ahead and that Google, Microsoft (MSFT), AOL and others are going to be investing heavily. Jerry seems to be the kind of guy to lead a similar effort for Yahoo.”

What do you think? Tell me below or in this poll.

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