Yahoo Is Being Sold for Parts, and the Future of Its In-House Labs Remains a Mystery

Webscope, a program run by Yahoo Research, is going through some changes.

by Kastalia Medrano
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Monday was the last day to bid on Yahoo services. The terminally ailing company recently extended what was originally an April 11 deadline for buyers to declare their intentions. Verizon and Google are among the companies reportedly interested in acquiring parts of Yahoo’s web business, with Verizon as the apparent frontrunner. Bloomberg reported that Verizon might then merge Yahoo, or what’s left of it, with AOL.

But what does the future hold for Webscope, Yahoo’s academic open-source reference library? Some have speculated that as Yahoo as a whole faces an uncertain time, Webscope’s future might also be less than bright.

Webscope is run by Yahoo Research, the eponymous company’s in-house research laboratory, and it’s already been downsized. Yahoo said the change will make Yahoo more focused and integrated. In February, the company also announced significant layoffs as it saw its stock value decrease significantly and has struggled to compete with its rivals.

“The goals for Webscope have not changed and the program will continue to operate as it always has,” a Yahoo spokesperson told Inverse over email. “The transition has allowed us to refine our key priorities and put the right processes in place to accomplish those goals. The Webscope program will continue to let our scientists share their datasets with academics so that they can leverage some of the world’s largest sets of anonymized data to nurture their algorithms/research. We trust that these datasets will serve as benchmarks to further academic research.”

Yahoo Labs only recently made public its largest dataset to date. The company announced in a blog post that going forward, Yahoo Labs will be called Yahoo Research, an entity which will “drive the company’s scientific efforts, look to the future, think out of the box, and be responsible for pushing the frontiers of the consumer internet.” The blog also announced the departure of several top officials associated with Yahoo Labs.

While several Yahoo employees implied to Inverse that they weren’t authorized to speak about the transitions the company is undergoing, they did note that Webscope continues to see a high rate of requests in all seven of the dataset categories the service provides, and that they plan to add additional datasets in the future. When we asked if there was fear that Webscope might soon be on the chopping block itself, we got this:

“We continue to receive requests for our datasets daily. Webscope continues to be a very useful program for academic researchers around the world and we remain excited about offering this to the community.”

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