Yahoo’s Neglected Global Labs Network Might Hold Key To Revival

What a time for Marissa Mayer to take control at Yahoo. She’ll need all the smarts she can lay her hands on to revive an ailing Yahoo. Which is why any section of Yahoo which is innovating could be a key component of it’s future capability – especially if Yahoo is to drag itself out of the race-to-the-bottom media portal strategy which it’s been left with.

Crucial to that turn-around could be the somewhat forgotten network of Yahoo Labs, scattered around the globe. This network has plenty of talent but it’s been somewhat neglected in recent times.

That neglect was thrown into sharp relief in March this year when Prabhakar Raghavan, the respected head of Yahoo’s Labs unit and also head of Yahoo’s strategy, left to join the company Mayer just left: Google.

There was thus plenty of soul-searching amongst researchers at Yahoo Labs, which has become a recruiting grounds for the likes of Google and Facebook lately. It has been left to Ron Brachman, Yahoo’s Chief Scientist and Ricardo Baeza-Yates Vice President of Yahoo! Research Europe and Latin America, to assume control.

Meanwhile, data mining, algorithms, search – you name it, Y! Labs has been looking into it. The Silicon Valley team is in two locations. One off Great America Parkway in Santa Clara, and the other on the headquarters campus in Sunnyvale.

However, the latest “News” posted for the Lab consists a December 2009 post about someone being honoured for “contributions to perceptual signal processing and tomographic imaging.” Things are a little more up to date in New York, last recognised in… 2010.

That said, the other labs in Barcelona (Spain), Haifa (Israel), Santiago (Chile), Bangalore (India) and Beijing (China) are well placed to pick up on hot global trends, which might well feed back into the mothership.

But it’s clear they’ve been forgotten. Sounds like the PR department’s been busy elsewhere… dealing with Carol Bartz and Scott Thompson mostly, I’d hazard.

It’s time to revive Yahoo’s innovative tradition.

Let’s hope so, for the shareholder’s – Marissa’s – and sake.