Where you stand depends on where you sit.”

–Nelson Mandela

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in late January in Davos, Switzerland, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer spoke about many things, including the benefits of data portability. (Watch the entire 30-minute video here.) In Mayer’s view, users should “own” their data and be able to easily export/remove it from one application or service and import it into another.

Is she right? Whose data is it, anyway? Great question. The answer depends on your point of view. From Mayer, the well-compensated CEO of a struggling former Internet heavyweight, her position here is certainly convenient.

2013 WEF Davos

It’s funny how Marissa advocates for data to be portable. Now, don’t get me wrong. This may well be her honest belief. It’s no coincidence, though, that Yahoo doesn’t possess great deal of user data relative to Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and others. In terms of search, for instance, Yahoo!’s market share continues to dwindle.

Don’t believe me? When was the last time that you updated your Yahoo! profile? I’ll be that it’s been a while.

A Whole, New, Data-Portable World

Image a world in which data portability is as simple as snapping your fingers. You can easily hit one button and all of the unstructured data from, say, Facebook, automatically ports into some type of Yahoo! service or application. You don’t have to repost pictures or videos–and all comments from your friends are in tact with relevant metadata (time, date, location, etc.). Your relationships, social networks, events, and entire web-browsing history just magically appear in the new service. Nothing gets lost in translation and you don’t have to write a bunch of code or know the ins and outs of ETL.

In such a world, Yahoo! could effectively piggyback on the work that Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and others have done. Mayer’s company could learn from the mistakes of those heavyweights and build a better mousetrap in the process.

There’s no doubt that such a scenario would benefit Yahoo! tremendously, but where’s the incentive for the others to effectively make Yahoo! more relevant and powerful?

Simon Says

I guarantee that if Mayer were running Facebook she’d be singing a very different tune.

More than ever, information is a mission-critical asset. Reading between the lines, Yahoo! wants more data–and better data on users and consumers. The company envies the positions of the Gang of Four, as well it should. Without a mobile OS or hardware, a popular search engine, and a viable social network, Yahoo! has to rely upon partnerships to stay remotely relevant.

Don’t let your organization make the same mistake.

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