Why Yahoo’s announcement today won’t get as much hype as Google’s

Google shipped a new thing last night, called Latitude. I already put it on my cell phone. It lets me tell my friends where I am. Pretty cool, right.

But today’s Yahoo announcement of Search Pad should have gotten more hype, but it won’t. As I type this at 7:35 a.m. my old boss, Vic Gundotra, who now is VP of Engineering at Google, solidly has hold of the top spot on Techmeme. Yahoo’s announcement shouldn’t threaten it. First, since you probably haven’t heard of Yahoo’s Search Pad, here’s what it does:

Let’s say you are heading to Austin for the SXSW conference next month. If you were using Yahoo’s search engine (hint: most SXSW’rs haven’t been on Yahoo in months) it would notice that you’re doing a variety of associated searches about Austin. It would save those into a new kind of notebook. Or, if it didn’t notice for some reason that you’re looking for Austin hotels, Austin BBQ, Austin restaurants, fun things to do in Austin, etc, you could start your own Search Pad and copy and paste Web pages into it.

On the surface of it Yahoo’s innovation is the kind of thing that would have early adopters like me slobbering all over myself to tell you about.

But I’m not. Here’s why:

1. When Google released Latitude last night it was available to everyone. I never even heard about Latitude from Google until the press release came into my Gmail account and when I clicked the link to try it out it all worked and I instantly told my friends on friendfeed about it and they all tried it out too and we had a big conversation about it. When Yahoo releases Search Pad today? It’s not available to everyone. Only randomly-selected people. I can’t force it on. I can’t test it. We can’t talk about it.
2. When Google released Latitude it might not have been the biggest idea, but it was aimed at a shifting paradigm: mobile phone users. Yahoo’s Search Pad? Aimed at old school web users. These people are not being forced to change their behaviors, so will be tougher to convince to try anything new. Let’s face it, if you get a new iPhone, you are going to try a TON of new things compared to the web. That’s a paradigm shift and hype comes with things that latch onto paradigm shifts.
3. When Google releases things it usually has some goodies for alpha geeks. There’s usually an API, or an advanced feature or two that only people who read Stack Overflow, Scripting News, or Life Hacker can appreciate. Yahoo’s announcement this morning? No such thing. Google’s announcement? Has tons of language that appeals to early adopters. When I interviewed Yahoo’s Tom Che, Senior Director of Product Management yesterday he admitted they were going after everyday users with Search Pad. When I asked him if I could bundle up a bunch of things in a Search Pad and forward them to Twitter, the answer was “no.” When I asked him if I could get a URL to the Search Pad, the answer was “no.” When I asked him if I could share a Search Pad with my friends, the answer was “no.” When I asked him if it would work with Google’s search engine (sorry, most of us won’t switch to Yahoo) the answer was “not really.” (You can manually enter things into a Yahoo Search Pad that you’ve found on Google, but it won’t automatically build a Search Pad for you the way it would if you were over on Yahoo’s search engine).

So, excuse me if, when you see me doing interviews today in San Francisco (I have a ton of them), I am much more excited about Google’s future than Yahoo’s future. Yahoo doesn’t get it: to get its stock price to go up and to get people like me to get excited about its future they need to care about early adopters. It’s clear they don’t care, so why should I?