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Quip CEO explains how Yahoo's fate has lessons for companies like Facebook

As Yahoo winds down its time as an independent company, its fate shows how important adaptability is for Facebook, said Bret Taylor, who's worked in high-level positions under Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

"Facebook's strongest attribute is how capable that company is of change," Taylor told CNBC's "Squawk Alley" on Tuesday. It went from "a social network in colleges to a social network that operates globally," he said. And it transitioned again from "a website to the most popular mobile application in the world." The company's now moving heavily into artificial intelligence and global internet access, he said.

Taylor is now co-founder and CEO of enterprise software company Quip, which was acquired by Salesforce in August. Before that, Taylor was the chief technology officer at Facebook, and one of the creators of Google Maps, under Mayer.

Facebook on a mobile phone
Jaap Arriens | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Yahoo and Facebook — both internet advertising companies — are in very different places than they used to be. Yahoo, once an icon, was likely "unfixable" by the time Mayer arrived, Taylor said. But Yahoo's struggles in moving to mobile advertising reflect a challenge that faces all companies, he said.

"It really shows the vulnerability of these technology companies with these really significant shifts in the underlying platforms we use," Taylor said.

Josh Elman, partner at Greylock Partners, who sits on the board of companies like Medium, Meerkat, and Musical.ly, said Mayer was one of the "best product thinkers of our time." But Elman noted that legacy companies have to be prepared to compete with newcomers that want to "define the next generation" of technologies like augmented reality.

Amazon and Microsoft, for instance, missed the mobile phone trends at first, but have come back strong by anticipating areas like cloud and the internet of things.

[W]e have all these new trends around us, [and] the companies that are going to win aren't going to go win in mobile or social. They're going to go win on all these new trends and really provide the products that we start to use every day," Elman said.