Esther Dyson about the different philosophies of Google and Yahoo:
Yahoo is “intelligent design”; Google is “blind evolution”.
More detailed quotes and an audio recording here.
When I read this, the first thing I associated with the term intelligent design was the pretty nonsensical anti-evolutionary belief propagated by some so-called scientists trying to ban evolution science from classrooms. I personally would not like to have my company labelled like that.
But besides this, after reading the article I asked myself
If Esther was right, what would this mean to Yahoo and Google ?
Intelligent design implies there is a designer behind the scenes, steering the company in a way he thinks it’s best. As he is an intelligent designer, he does his thing quite well, what makes the company successful. Fine.
Now what about the blind evolution? Sounds somewhat uncoordinated, aimless. But it’s the opposite. In nature, evolution is coordinated by natural laws, leading to what Darwin called survival of the fittest. Out of lots of quite random mutations, in the long term only those that are superior to the others will survive.
Thinking of companies and people, this randomness may lead to unpredictable results, results nobody would have thought of before. Let people think, and let their ideas flow through the organization, filtering out those which are likely to succeed in an economical sense.
In short, I think the blind evolution thing, when introduced in a company, would be by far superior, especially in terms of innovation, just because of the random factor which allows for astonishing results. On the other hand, the intelligent design approach will always be limited by the skills of the designer and therefore won’t be able to keep up with evolution.
Back into reality, I don’t think the philosophical gap between Yahoo and Google is that huge. They both are quite innovative, often by buying external knowledge, and sometimes on their own. The main difference seems to be the “We’re the good guys” facade Google built to hide it’s corporate face.
By the way, I don’t understand why the heck Yahoo bought del.icio.us and still isn’t offering a ‘search your bookmarked pages’ feature like Simpy does…