There’s much to consider in this Gizmodo piece by Mat Honan on Flickr’s takeover by Yahoo. It’s a mix of deeply researched tech reporting, informed opinion, “WEHT Flickr?” and Flickr: Behind the Music. Mostly, it’s a detailed analysis of what happens when previously innovative companies are “forced to focus on integration, not innovation,” and it’s resonant because it’s true.
Truer words have never been written:
“Flickr’s mobile and social failures are ultimately both symptoms of the same problem: a big company trying to reinvent itself by gobbling up smaller ones, and then wasting what it has. The story of Flickr is not that dissimilar to the story of Google’s buyout of Dodgeball, or Aol’s purchase of Brizzly. Beloved Internet services with dedicated communities, dashed upon the rocks of unwieldy companies overrun with vice presidents.”
“…When Flickr hit the ground at Yahoo it was crushed with engineering and service requirements it had to meet as per demands of the acquisition integration team. Those were a drain on resources, human and financial.”
I know the history of the Internet is being written as we live and breathe, but so far anyway, has there ever in the history of the Internet been a good product takeover? Maybe YouTube by Google? I can’t think of another off the top of my head, probably for the reasons detailed in the article. Let this be a lesson and a warning to start-ups and big companies alike: Selling/acquiring a start-up might scale it, but it will almost certainly kill it, too.