What’s Old Is New Again. (Or Did It Just Stay the Same?)

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Back in the Saddle — How many of you still have your old Yahoo! email account? If you do, you’re in luck. Yahoo! is on its way back up.
Back in the day, Yahoo! was the hottest property on the Internet. However, like so many others that rode the wave of emerging technology (can you say “Palm” or “Blackberry”), Yahoo! lost its direction over time. Google beat Yahoo! in search; Apple passed Yahoo! with its iTunes media platform; Amazon proved the best in e-commerce. Eventually, Yahoo! settled in as a mediocre social portal, albeit one with a significant online following.
Then a miracle happened. Last year, Yahoo! hired Marissa Mayer as president and CEO. Mayer was a long-time Google employee — employee No. 20 to be exact — and while at Google, she held key positions in a virtually all of Google’s divisions. The opportunity at Yahoo! was a natural fit.
In her first year at Yahoo!, Mayer has gotten Yahoo! steered back in the right direction. Mayer’s more notable accomplishments over the past year include the $1.1 billion purchase of the blogging site Tumblr and directing a focus on delivering mobile applications. Oh, by the way, the Yahoo! Home page was redesigned for the first time in four years.
The effort is beginning to pay off. Last month, ComScore reported that Yahoo! surpassed Google and regained the No. 1 spot as the most visited website. Yahoo! is still way behind in areas such as e-commerce and online media, but hopefully, this is a sign for good things to come.

Terrorists Prefer Gmail — In a speech defending the PRISM spy program (if you remember, that’s the program where the NSA searches your online personal data for terrorist activity), former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden told an audience in Washington, D.C., that, “Gmail is the preferred Internet service provider of terrorists worldwide.”
At face value, the assertion seems shocking, and several questions come to mind. How could terrorists exploit a U.S company like Google? What is Google doing to stop them? And more importantly, what is the government going to do to get these bad guys?
After letting the knee-jerk reaction pass, one more question comes to mind — should we really be surprised that terrorists use the most popular email service in the world? The answer is no, of course not. The statement is kind of silly when you think about it. It’s like saying we should be concerned that terrorists prefer iPhones (the most popular mobile device), or that terrorists prefer Toyotas (the most popular automobile), or that terrorists prefer soccer (the most popular sport).
While likely true, does it justify creating a secret police state to monitor each of these hugely popular commercial items? Unfortunately, it appears that the current set of elected representatives believe we should.
In that case, here’s another question — If we throw away our freedom, the founding principle of our country, and establish a police state in the name of security, doesn’t that mean the terrorists win?

Home, Sweet Connected Home — Recently, I’ve noticed an increasing number of technology articles on household appliances. The increase was subtle — a review of a robot vacuum here, the release of a new wireless light switch there. Now, people have been talking about household automation for years, and there are gadgets a-plenty. But it’s never really taken off in the consumer market. Has something changed?
Well, I guess I wasn’t the only one to notice. CNET, the popular geek website that provides reviews for all things tech, created a new section focused on the connected home. If you are interested in smart coffee makers, receiving alerts from your dishwasher or checking the status of your latest load of laundry, this is the site for you.
As for me, I think I’m going to start small. If I can program my thermostat from my iPhone, I would consider that a major win. Then I’ll move on to texting my microwave.

I’m off the grid at @gregory_a_baker.