Yahoo CEO comes under fire for Flickr engineering cuts
"More than anything, let's give this company some friggin' breathing room," newly-arrived Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz told reporters on a conference call in January. "It's been too crazy, everybody on the outside deciding what Yahoo should do, shouldn't do, what's best for them. That's gonna stop."
But last week, Bartz made the decision to cut staff at Flickr, the widely used photo-sharing site. GigaOm editor Om Malik listed five Flickr engineers who had left the company. Some, he said, were laid off, while others resigned. Most notable is Cal Henderson, chief architect of Flickr.
Bartz' decision to fire Flickr engineers caused Seeking Alpha blogger Joel West, a business professor at San Jose State University, to turn from Bartz booster to Bartz basher:
Yahoo is now cutting heavily at Flickr, including its top development talent.
This reminds me of how CEO Ed Zander closed Motorola's talent-laden software lab near UIUC two years ago. Ironically, Yahoo created a new office to hire that talent.
West's post won't start a backlash by itself. But it seems like an early example of how Web 2.0 boosters will view Bartz' move. Her decision to shut down GeoCities was an acknowledgement that GeoCities' build-it-yourself Web 1.0 homesteads have been replaced by simple, turnkey Facebook profiles and no-brain-required Twitter streams.
Flick, by contrast, is a successful product, at least in terms of mass-market adoption. Bartz cut technical staff at Flickr in the same week that President Obama's administration began using it to distribute official photos as part of its WhiteHouse 2.0 strategy to establish a high-profile presence on top social networks.
Financially, Bartz' decision probably makes perfect sense. Millions of mainstream Flickr users may not even learn of the staff reduction, let alone become upset by it. Layoffs are now business as usual in America. But Bartz has hurt Flickr, a prized brand and daily destination for many Internet users. The lesson for Web 2.0 boosters: As the world's economy continues to slide, no one is safe.