I wasn’t at Yahoo! when Paul Graham was. He was there a long time ago. I can’t speak to whether his blog post accurately reflects what Yahoo! was like then. I can tell you that it doesn’t mesh at all with the experiences I’ve had at Yahoo! since I joined the company in early 2007.
The main point of Graham’s article is that Yahoo! didn’t have a hacker-centric culture. If there was a time when that was true, it must have been before I joined.
A company without a hacker-centric culture doesn’t encourage the kind of risk-taking and experimentation I saw when I was at Yahoo! Search. As an engineer, I had direct input into product features at every level, from ideation to design to implementation to launch. If I had a crazy idea, I was encouraged not just to tell people about it (up to and including executives), but to implement it and see if it tested well with users. I was able to add my own personal touch to parts of the product (sometimes big parts) without needing to ask permission or wade through excessive red tape.
This may not sound impressive to someone who’s used to the way things work at startups or small companies. But this was at one of the largest Internet companies in the world, on one of the most visited websites in the world. For Yahoo! to give me and other engineers the kind of freedom and power we had is not normal for a company or a product that operates at this scale.
I have my gripes about Yahoo!, sure. It hasn’t been all kittens and rainbows. But the hacker-centric culture and the brilliant people Paul Graham seems to think don’t exist here are the reason I’ve been here for 3.5 years and counting, and they’re the reason I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon.
I originally wrote this as an answer to a question on Quora. I thought it was worth reposting here. My opinions, as always, are my own, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of my employer.