So take these broken wings
And learn to fly again,
Learn to live so free
-- From "Broken Wings" by Mr. Mister

It looks like Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) is going back to the basics, refocusing on the qualities that set the company apart from the competition in the first place.

There's a deliciously ironic twist here -- because Yahoo!'s greatest strength comes from the competition. This company is never more comfortable than when it's leaning on Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) AOL, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), or other net-savvy giants. So when I hear Yahoo! say that its foray into music services is over, dumped for a music portal that pulls together the best of YouTube, Pandora, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iTunes, and Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), among many others, I sense a return to Yahoo!'s roots.

See, Yahoo! became an industry titan on two strengths: an early jump on the nascent Internet bandwagon, and an enormous talent for making 2 + 2 = 5, or more. Nobody could make a mishmash of other people's content look so good. But it seems like management forgot about that part in recent years, focusing instead on largely irrelevant ventures like search and advertising platforms, or challenging eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) with the now-defunct Yahoo! Auctions.

It's back to Portals 101 for Yahoo!, and not a minute too soon. Imagine what this company could have been today if it had stayed on target through the years. Google used to run Yahoo!'s searches, and could have done a much better job monetizing that massive portal traffic than the in-house gang did. And with one exclusive goal at the top of everyone's mind, I believe that Yahoo! could have grown its global user base much further and faster. Diversity isn't for everyone.

Not every "back to the basics" effort pans out, but this raises fond memories of my days at CSX (NYSE:CSX), when management kicked off a "Railroading 101" program right after I started working there. In the nine years since, the S&P 500 has lost 45%, while CSX has more than doubled. Fundamental skills win championships in any sport.

I believe that Yahoo! is setting itself up to do the same thing in the business world -- if the new attitude of Yahoo! Music spills over into the company's many other silos. Good work, Carol Bartz. Yahoo! seems to do better under your wing.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Google, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. He really did work for the railroad, feeding and grooming their computers. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.