Brad Garlinghouse: Yahoo's Strength Is The Application Layer, The Media Stuff Is The Result Of That

Brad GarlinghouseBrad Garlinghouse

Photo: Flickr/dfarber

Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of file-sharing startup YouSendIt, thinks that Yahoo’s hiring of Marissa Mayer was “not only bold but potentially brilliant.” Yet he also warns that she’s taken on a big job. So he told a crowd at the Fortune Brainstorm conference happening this week in Aspen, Colo.

Garlinghouse is perhaps best known for penning a memo known as The ‘Peanut Butter Manifesto’ in 2006 when he was an executive at Yahoo. The manifesto accused Yahoo of being unfocused and spread too thin and too wide.

“I think Ross Levinsohn could have been a great CEO,” he said. “My personal viewpoint is the office still too big. She’s a 37-year-old CEO who has never been a CEO. She’s going to have to really partner to achieve success.”

He does think that hiring Mayer indicates that Yahoo is at least going in the right direction, away from news, video and other bits of media and toward cloud services—which he calls the “app layer” of the Internet.

“I believe the great success stories of the Internet are at the app layer, Facebook, Google, Yahoo Mail,” he said.

So Yahoo needs to “move more toward the application layer than the media layer. Media has been an outcome. You get the user’s attention” because they come for another service—”historically search, now mail”—and they “end up consuming media.”

The big thing she needs to do is change Yahoo’s culture so that its not afraid of failure. If she can do that, with buy in from other executives, she’s got a chance.

Update:  Garlinghouse clarified his remarks to us and we have updated the story accordingly.

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