Marissa Mayer, one of Google’s longest-serving employees, has joined rival Yahoo! as their new chief executive officer.

Mayer, 37, was Google’s first female engineer, and rose through the ranks of the Silicon Valley start-up, quickly becoming one of the search giant’s top executives.

She will start at Yahoo! today (July 17), keen to reverse the once-ubiquitous company’s slow decline.

Yahoo! was, when the Internet started, as synonymous with logging in as Google is now. Its search engine, news sites and chat rooms attracted millions – but Yahoo! slowly lost ground as competitors look Google, Facebook and Twitter grew.

Whilst Google found a revenue stream in search engine optimisation, Internet marketing and paid ads, Yahoo! found search users moving to Google.

Yahoo! still has one of the most-read news sites in the US, and claims to have the most visited homepage on the net. But a lack of focus on company objectives over the past few years has meant Yahoo!’s failed to capitalise on potential.

Commentators have been quick to point out that appointing a new CEO was a crucial pivot point for Yahoo! – making as much of a statement of intent as a statement about the company’s main expertise.

Appointing a well-respected Google executive to lead the company shows Yahoo!’s priorities lie in being a technology company: not simply a content firm.

Yahoo! claimed the move “signals a renewed focus on product innovation”.

The appointment wasn’t expected and has surprised Silicon Valley – but has widely been seen as a canny piece of recruitment.

The fact someone so entrenched in Google was prepared to leave the firm also has reprecussions: will others follow suit?

Mayer is seen as something special in the Valley. She has a degree in artificial intelligence and was the 20th member of staff to join Google, around 13 years ago.

Legend has it, Mayer was behind the blue coloured links displayed in Google search results – after two of her staff disagreed about which shade of blue would attract the most clicks, she ordered a tone-test, using 40 different blue colours, to decide which was best.

She is one of only four high-powered females in the tech world: alongside Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, Meg Whitman from Hewlett-Packard and Virginia Rometty, head of IBM.

Yahoo!’s former CEO, Scott Thompson, left in May after a series of scandals about his qualifications. Claims he “padded” his resume stuck and, following outcry from the board, Thompson made a swift exit – just four months into the role.

Thompson’s short stay followed the sacking of ex-ex CEO Carol Bartz, whose expletive-laden response to the actions of “doofuses” is well documented, and who seemed to be shouldering the blame, publicly, for Yahoo!’s loss of market share.

Bartz clearly felt she wasn’t to blame: but something was amiss at Yahoo!. It lost huge ground on Google and then Facebook, seeing its market value slashed from $44.6bn offered by Microsoft in 2008 to just $19bn in the past 12 months.

Of course, a $19bn company is still a pretty powerful company: the key now, is whether Mayer can arrest and reverse the decline and start making Yahoo! a series contender again (albeit with a silly name).

The early signs are positive: shares in Yahoo! jumped two per cent in 24 hours after the announcement.

For Mayer, the challenge is just beginning. She started at Yahoo! today already six months pregnant, claiming she would ensure her maternity leave is just “a few weeks long” and noting, much like the mountain of problems she faces at her new company, that she will just have to “work through it”.

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