Yammer: This thing is a prize winner?


Like more than a few people (as far as I can tell by reading through my blog and other feeds) I confess that I was more than a little gobsmacked to find out that Yammer had won the TechCrunch50 prize. It may well have been a tough field for the judges, given the number of lame Web 2.0 offerings I read about among the contestants, but I still find it hard to believe that a service that is ultimately a carbon copy of Twitter won the big prize. Before anyone signs in to the comment section to berate me, I understand that Yammer is for the enterprise, and that it has a kind of “we’re holding your employees hostage” business model, where companies have to pay a fee to “claim” the users that are chatting on Yammer using their corporate email addresses.

That said, all this sounds to me (as more than one person has pointed out) like something Twitter could roll over one morning and implement without even breaking a sweat (now that its server issues seem to be a thing of the past). Is that really a great business? On the one hand, I’m inclined to give David Sacks — the co-founder of genealogy site Geni, where Yammer was apparently created as an internal communications tool — some props for getting an idea and running with it. But it still feels a lot more like a feature that makes more sense as part of Twitter than it does as any kind of standalone business.

On the other hand, that’s what a lot of Web “businesses” seem to be: features in search of a business model, or features that are hoping to be acquired by the service that they ultimately belong with. In some ways, of course, Twitter itself seems like a feature that belongs with some other communications tool, so I guess that makes Yammer a feature spinoff from another feature of an actual tool or service. That definitely deserves a prize, but not the one that TC50 gave it.

Comments (28)

  1. Stu wrote::

    Holy crap, that thing was the *best* Arrington could come with?

    Assuming (hoping, praying) that it was just poor judgment, and there actually are some sites who would be more deserving. What contenders looked decent?

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 11:26 am #
  2. leigh wrote::

    Lame, lame, lame. But then again, look at the high level of sophistication of the judges…here's the quote from the Salesforce.com CEO

    “I really like this company the best.

    The name is not very corporate. It reminded me of what I’m having for Thanksgiving. Maybe you could use a Yam for a logo.”

    A yam as a logo? Next question: What exactly was the criteria for winning?

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 11:29 am #
  3. I completely agree, when they announced that Yammer had won, my jaw dropped. I was tempted to jump up and scream above the crowd “What the hell are you people thinking?!?! This is not the most deserving winner!” I think Swype and Adgregate Markets are far more revolutionary and game changing than a threaded twitter clone that does the same job as a message board.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 11:50 am #
  4. ankesh wrote::

    I think you are missing something here. Put aside the that Twitter could have, should have or will do this. There is a clear need for better corp communications. This was the whole promise of Wiki's like jotspot and Socialtext. HR/corp communications will be clambering over themselves to sign up. Knowledge retention, better communications, and more social integrated organization. Also they actually have a revenue model. I think this can be bigger than Salesforce.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 12:00 pm #
  5. seemsArtless wrote::

    This was the first year I paid any attention to TC50, but tuned out when someone in the panel basically said the only place on earth any sort of important innovation could come from was Silicon Valley.

    Not that the rest of the panel let him get away with it, but boy it seems like Web 2.0 has become stale and inbred, and the fact that Yammer won is an excellent example of this.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 12:16 pm #
  6. Mark Evans wrote::

    Just got invited to join Yammer. From what I can tell it's just like Twitter except instead of asking “What are you doing”, it says “What are you working on?”.

    I'd be interested in why TC picked Yammer given it's interesting but not particularly innovative.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 12:20 pm #
  7. anon wrote::

    It might help to explain that David Sacks is CEO of Geni, which is a sponsor of TC.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 2:36 pm #
  8. Corvida wrote::

    This could be the biggest problem with Web 2.0 in general. Ideas of innovation are running low. Who can blame them for taking and running with whatever they can. However, I agree that this isn't an award-winning service nor idea.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 2:59 pm #
  9. JoeDuck wrote::

    I think the next round of “winners” will be less tech innovators as they will be biz innovators – effectively using the tools we now have to solve old problems cheaply.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 3:19 pm #
  10. Award winning idea? I doubt it. Seem more like a copy of existing idea.
    Rif Chia

    Sunday, December 14, 2008 at 7:36 am #
  11. JoeDuck wrote::

    Thanks for panning this choice as I was about to do

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 3:10 pm #
  12. Well didn't Mint win last year even though it wasn't remotely close to being the choice of most of the judges? Perhaps I'm mis-remembering but wasn't it the case that JC and MA had final say on the winner, regardless of voting?

    I didn't attend this year so can't really comment any further, except to say that I did sign up for Yammer this morning, and while it does exactly what it says on the tin, it's spectacularly unexciting.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 4:01 pm #
  13. Jeff Greco wrote::

    At least Mint was an interesting new product, a breath of fresh air in its market. Not so much with this Yammer nonsense. Seems like a blow for future TC50 credibility.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 5:39 pm #
  14. I'm not sure that Mint was particularly interesting — just some shiny css on top of Yodlee, right?

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 11:49 pm #
  15. Peter wrote::

    I'm really waiting for someone to show some love for Dropbox!

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 4:58 pm #
  16. Brian wrote::

    I completely agree.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 5:18 pm #
  17. JimAtJaxtr wrote::

    I'd be interested to see how many businesses do get interested in this tool. I think Yammer is a response to an unsaid question in the social media community of how do you make money off/create a sustainable business out of Twitter? I could see how Yammer could make money, even though it really isn't offering anything revolutionary; it's just repackaged the Twitter concept for business.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 5:36 pm #
  18. Tim wrote::

    Laconica, the open source clone of twitter is a better choice if one is wanting to pull this behind the firewall. It should be mentioned along with its first commercial version Identi.ca.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 5:53 pm #
  19. You're so right. 'Feature as a business' can never take off in the enterprise because IT departments hate complexity, and Web 2.0 app sprawl is the last thing they need.

    There are so many of these ludicrous Web 2.0 collaboration apps that have no future. BTW you should take a look at our offering, Unison. It's a client/server app that is the polar opposite of Web 2.0 (ie it is not Web-based and it actually has the prospect of huge adoption…)

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 5:55 pm #
  20. jacobmorgan wrote::

    wow, i just wrote a post titled: “are you really a company or just a feature/application?” i mention yammer in there as well. check out the post i think we are definitely on the same page here, was shocked!


    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 5:55 pm #
  21. novaurora wrote::

    It seems that divergence, rather than convergence, drives a lot of successful products. The iPhone is more the exception than the rule. Grab a feature, make it simpler, easier, sexier, and ultimately more useful. Facebook or Basecamp status messages I'm sure were the inspiration for Twitter, which doesn't seem to warrant a standalone system, and yet… here we are. Yammer is a further divergence. Twitter represents status messages for people, and Yammer for corporations. It will be interesting to watch them over the next year.

    Jason M. Putorti

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 7:03 pm #
  22. Eric Rice wrote::

    Nothing against Yammer, I'm just surprised that out of all the OTHER stuff, *it* was the winner. I dunno, enterprise twitter vs. an augmented tool that overlays/reads the real world and displays meta info.. it's like overlaying Google over your real life when you hold a phone camera up to it…. but I'm yammering on now. Heh. Par for the course, guys. This is what our leadership in the new media journo blog world is bringing us. Can't blame big media anymore.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 7:18 pm #
  23. I agree 'thewie. A bit of a head scratcher. But it sure gets folks talking, hey? :)

    – Stuart

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 8:01 pm #
  24. naffis wrote::

    If you're interested in Yammer you should take a look at http://present.ly. It's a micro-blogging tool for businesses much like Yammer, but with added features like groups and media sharing. The business model is also different in that it doesn't hold employers hostage.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 10:23 pm #
  25. Another example of how the echochamer works…

    Saturday, September 13, 2008 at 4:56 pm #
  26. I wish Twitter got there first. It's a good tool. I want to introduce for my company but will essentially have two applications running doing basically the same thing.

    Sunday, September 21, 2008 at 11:39 am #
  27. Alex wrote::

    Web Based business.. I wish we could have something else i am getting Bored

    Monday, November 3, 2008 at 9:07 am #
  28. vitaliydemur wrote::

    Hi All!
    Yammer is a great product that has ability to improve communications and create transparency by virtually making company’s structure flat. I work for LADevelopers Inc. (http://www.ladevelopers.com) a California based software development firm. We specialize in custom Yammer solutions for enterprise and know this product inside out. Please contact us if you need any help with it.

    Sunday, August 16, 2009 at 5:48 am #

Trackbacks/Pingbacks (8)

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  2. Yammer Wins TechCrunch 50 « Joe Duck on Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 3:43 pm

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  3. Eindelijk: Twitteren op de zaak | aboutMEDIA on Friday, September 12, 2008 at 4:51 am

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  5. […] Mathew Ingram points out, Twitter could implement Yammer’s functionality without too much difficulty. Yammer would be obsolete […]

  6. […] Mathew Ingram disagrees with the Yammer choice, saying that Yammer is basically just a copy of Twitter. I have to agree that it certainly looks almost exactly the same, at least at first. […]

  7. […] Mathew Ingram (Communities editor at The Globe and Mail in Toronto): Yammer: This thing is a prize winner? […]

  8. hyponastic (David Kristie) on Sunday, November 8, 2009 at 3:24 am

    First mention of yammer in the globe http://is.gd/4PUz3 since they dissed it way back in 2008 http://tinyurl.com/5prle5 Bit of a blind spot?