Yahoo Wants to Blind the Competition With Science

Aug 19, 2010

Originally Published on on August 17, 2010 By Ryan Singel Imagine a world where your favorite webpage doesn’t even exist until you go there, and then it’s exactly what you hoped it would be, and it makes you viscerally happy. Prabhakar Raghavan is thinking about just that, and as the chief scientist for Yahoo he’s actually in a position to make it possible. “In principle, everything on a webpage is fungible and we can change the layout to maximize happiness,” Raghavan said. “We all have proxies for happiness.” While Yahoo’s stock remains in the doldrums and can never seem to win with the tech press or investors, Yahoo remains a powerhouse on the net, with a huge number of loyal and repeat users. And while it may have lost the search war to Google and the social networking battle to Facebook, Yahoo’s got plans to stay vital. A big part of that involves science. Research is considered so vital to Yahoo’s future prospects — which many consider dim, that Raghavan, who heads Yahoo Labs, was recently promoted to being a senior vice president who reports directly to CEO Carol Bartz. In fact, Prabhaker Raghavan is quietly adamant that Yahoo is more than just a homepage augmented by a search box, webmail and sites dedicated to sports, finance and celebrity gossip. Slim and tall, Raghavan manages to explain detailed scientific concepts with ease and confidence, making his interlocutors smarter, while at the same time, leaving them painfully aware afterward, they were just in the presence of someone who’s so smart that if you’d been much smarter to start, you’d still have walked smarter after talking with him. Raghavan says Yahoo has more than just technology — it’s got research scientists, drawing on disciplines ranging from sociology to micro-economics. They comb through data for patterns and insights — what Raghavan calls “internet social scientists”. Their job is to “blend large-scale data analysis with social analysis,” Raghavan says, a combination rarely found in academia. Read More at