Yahoo used to be “the” place to go online. However, in recent years, the once illustrious web portal has been almost a continual state of decline. It seems almost every step the company takes moves it closer to demise. Even the hiring of a new CEO resulted in a public debacle and a “resignation.” Yahoo is on its fourth CEO since September 2011. Despite the problems, Yahoo continues to push forward in hopes it will find the magic mix of services that will ignite a recovery. The latest effort is a new search app that Yahoo is positioning as a “new kind of browser” called Axis.
It’s unclear if Axis will help the struggling search portal that is now under constant pressure to improve its bottom line. The company’s problems are impacting every area of the business. The Wall Street Journal reports Yahoo may sell a minority stake of the company to a private equity fund by the end of the year to get an infusion of new cash, but the deal isn’t guaranteed. No previous sale attempt has managed to progress beyond discussions. In April, Yahoo laid off over 2,000 employees, 14 percent of the workforce. Even with all the issues, it doesn’t appear that Yahoo’s woes are over.
These concerns aren’t stopping Yahoo from continuing to roll out new products. The company’s latest effort is Axis, which Yahoo is hoping will be more successful than previous launches. For example in November Yahoo announced a new suite of mobile products including a personalized magazine app for iPad, Livestand. The entire project was killed a little less than seven months later. Things may not be any better for Axis, which is already getting off to a rocky start.
Yahoo bets on HTML5
Yahoo refers to Axis as a browser, but that’s not quite an accurate description. Axis is available to PC, iPhone and iPad users. One the desktop, Axis is plug-in for HTML5 browsers and on iOS devices it is an app. Axis syncs user search activity across devices and makes search more visual by displaying thumbnails for search results. Axis essentially eliminates the search results page. Axis also allows users to create homepages with saved articles and web pages.
Although the UI, especially the mobile version is attractive, Axis has a number of troubling issues. Only days after its launch, a security flaw was found in Axis that could allow attackers to access Yahoo’s security certificate and create malware. In addition to the security vulnerability, Yahoo prioritizes its properties in Axis’ search results. Axis provides no information or visual cues to inform users that the search results are skewed to return sites owned by Yahoo higher than other search results. It’s likely that most users will not be a fan of this approach.
Yahoo must continue its efforts to revamp its services to attract new users and advertising dollars. Investing in mobile is a step in the right direction. However, it’s unlikely that Axis is the start of newer, stronger Yahoo.