What does Marissa Mayer see at Yahoo! that we don’t?

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By now you know that Google’s top female executive, Marissa Mayer, has jumped ship to take the helm at Yahoo!. Admit it, you did not see this coming. This is a big deal for the company that once sat at the top of the Silicon Valley pile. As Cnet columnist and former Mashable editor-at-large says “Yahoo! has pulled off an incredible coup.”

Since the controversial axing of Carol Bartz, the contentious position as head of the struggling tech giant has been difficult to fill. Recently Bartz’s successor Scott Thompson had to step down because he’d faked parts of his resume. Some might think the job is jinxed.

Mayer, who has been at Google for 13 years and was its first female engineer, said the decision was a relatively easy one. The now former Googler seems intent on taking the ailing Yahoo! back to its glory days, when “people didn’t understand the difference between Yahoo! and the internet.”

Although Mayer was one of Google’s most prominent top executives, her role was waning. She was head of products for Google’s search engine for years before being assigned to Google’s local products during the great reshuffle 18 months ago. That might have made leaving a much easier decision.

What Mayer’s decision has done is spark debate, trending globally on Twitter. “Mayer is completely out of Yahoo’s league. So far out that I’m surprised they even had the courage to approach her (although it’s possible she approached them),” writes TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington.

What a ballsy move. She announces her departure from Google to Yahoo! and her pregnancy in the same breath. Some think she is on crack, others think it’s a brilliant tactical play.

But what does the mean for Yahoo! and what is Mayer seeing that we can’t and other CEOs couldn’t accomplish?

What Yahoo gets immediately from this appointment

Headlines! Everyone is now talking about Google’s top female intellectual powerhouse joining the company that Google effectively blew out of the water. Yahoo! gets relevance in an industry that was beginning to write it off. “The move instantly makes Yahoo! relevant in Silicon Valley again. Mayer is one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent executives,” says Parr.

It means it’s a technology company again. There has been a some identity crisis at Yahoo! in the last couple of years between its need to remain a true tech company and its forays into media. Mayer’s statement that she wants to hire young Silicon Valley talent shows that the company is ready to build competitive products.

She has real degrees and the media loves her! Mayer graduated from Stanford University with degrees in Symbolic Systems and Computer Science specialising in artificial intelligence. Unlike Bartz, who the media loved to hate, she is actually adored by the media and quite likable.

What’s in it for Mayer?

Seriously? What does she see? Granted her role at Google was a somewhat diminished one, but she did have job security there. Perhaps she’s ready to put her talents to good use and save one of the web’s pioneering companies.

Money. I am pretty certain Yahoo! gave a her an insane package. The company would have had to offer something seriously sweet for anyone to take on the herculean task of making it relevant again. She is no doubt bringing her own team of executives to remake the company and I am sure she has some pretty strict rules on our things are to be done.

Google controversies. Since Larry Page took over from Eric Schmidt there has been some controversy about cracks in Google’s foundation. The search giant has been making vigorous changes to search that some, even within the company, have questioned. Perhaps Mayer sees Yahoo! as a fresh start, a place to build something new and relevant.

Whatever it is, Yahoo! just got interesting again and Mayer can either sail this ship back to relevance or sink it once and for all.

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