Marissa Mayer's Smartest and Dumbest Moves at Yahoo

After one year on the job, here's a look back at what the CEO did right and should have done differently.

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By Brian Patrick Eha

Peter Kramer/Associated Press
Marissa Mayer

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When Marissa Mayer took over as Yahoo's chief executive one year ago today, the world knew her as a woman who could pretty much write her own ticket in the tech industry. Having been the 20th employee of Google and its first female engineer, Mayer could have assumed a leading role at just about any internet company.

Since taking the helm at Yahoo, Mayer has made several major decisions that are changing the trajectory of the company.

Simply agreeing to take the job may be the best thing she's done yet for Yahoo, says Scott Kessler, an analyst for S&P Capital IQ, a division of financial services firm Standard & Poor's. Hiring the star Google exec sent a strong message that the ailing internet giant was determined to get back on top. Twelve months later, though, the company is not yet where it would like to be. In its earnings report today, Yahoo noted second-quarter revenue of $1.14 billion, a 7 percent decrease from $1.22 billion in the second quarter of 2012.

While acknowledging Yahoo's efforts at progress, Kessler says Mayer has a long road ahead. "There's a lot more that needs to be done before you can call what's going on there fully successful."

Related: Yahoo Redesigns Flickr to Make It 'Awesome Again'

As Yahoo struggles to regain its cachet, here's a look back at her best and worst decisions so far.

Smartest Move: Revamping Flickr
By the time Mayer came into the picture, photo-sharing site Flickr was long overdue for a relaunch. "Flickr could have been what Instagram has become in some respects," Kessler says, but Yahoo hadn't made it a priority.

Mayer set out to redress that mistake, presiding over a hiring boom for the Flickr team, a massive site redesign and an update to the mobile app. While some of Flickr's 87 million users may have initially complained about the new look, the approach to Flickr fits into Mayer's larger plan to make the company cool again.

"Yahoo is endeavoring to make daily digital experiences delightful and inspiring," says Kessler, and taking and sharing digital photos has become one of the primary ways people connect.

Dumbest Move: Bungling the 'No Telecommuting' Policy
When Mayer announced to employees in March that she was ending Yahoo's work-from-home policy, it sparked a national debate about workplace flexibility. While the policy update may have been necessary to turn around Yahoo's lackadaisical corporate culture, it was widely seen as a condemnation of telecommuting in general, Kessler says. A bad situation got worse when news emerged that Mayer had built a nursery next to her office to make it easier to juggle her own competing responsibilities.

Although Mayer's "no telecommuting" policy was never meant to be a blanket ban on working from home under any circumstances, much less incite a national referendum on the issue, Yahoo failed to publicly explain the decision and contain the backlash. "There's been a lot of misinformation," Kessler says. "[Mayer] could have done a better job of clarifying things."

Related: First Tumblr, Now Hulu, Oh My! What's Driving Yahoo's Startup Appetite

Brian Patrick Eha

Brian Patrick Eha is a freelance journalist and former assistant editor at He is writing a book about the global phenomenon of Bitcoin for Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Random House. It will be published in 2015.

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