Yahoo heads in new research direction

Yahoo Labs is no more, but Yahoo Research emerges to better sync research and product development

The latest move in the topsy-turvy world of Yahoo is to ditch its Labs organization and squeeze its researchers into its product teams to help bring new ideas to market more quickly.

Yahoo VP of Research Yoelle Maarek spun the development this way in a blog post this week:

Recently we announced our efforts to make Yahoo a more focused company. This focus will let us accelerate the pace of innovation to make our products even better. We saw these changes as an opportunity to better align our research efforts, while preserving Yahoo’s culture of exploration and inquiry. As a result, we are reorganizing Yahoo Labs and moving forward with a new approach to research at Yahoo.

Yahoo's other efforts to focus better include spinning off its main Internet business, laying off 15% of its workers and doubling down on areas such as mobile, social and video.

MORE: 10 of today's really cool network & IT research projects

The reorganized research efforts will be lumped under the new heading of Yahoo Research, which will be led by Maarek. Yahoo Chief Scientist and head of Labs Ron Brachman is leaving the company, as is Maarek's fellow VP of Research Ricardo Baeza-Yates.

Maarek emphasizes that Yahoo's researchers will continue to publish scholarly works and push "the frontiers of the consumer internet." So not surprisingly, nothing to indicate any focus on enterprise networks. 

Yahoo's R&D spending in recent years has been on the increase: It's risen, for example, from $199.63M in the quarter ending June 30, 2012, to a steady stream of $268M to $355M during 2014 and 2015. Still, the fact that Yahoo would streamline its research efforts isn't exactly a surprise given the company's current financial straits. 

The company isn't alone, either, among Internet big shots in rethinking its research efforts. Alphabet (Google parent) Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt wrote recently on Medium, that the organization is expanding its Google Ideas think tank into a tech incubator called Jigsaw that will focus on "geopolitical challenges", including digital attacks and online censorship. Separately, as  Bloomberg Business details here, Microsoft under CEO Satya Nadella over the past couple of years is making big moves to ensure research efforts have a better shot of resulting in products.

While I didn't get a chance to dig deep into IBM's latest research efforts at its IBM Connect social business conference in Orlando this month, the fact that the company did have reps from its Innovation Lab showing off their latest doings at the event did at least indicate some connectivity between researchers and product/marketing teams.  In fact, IBM even showed off a collaborative environment for its researchers...

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