Imagine saying the following sentence today: “The most popular index on the World Wide Web is Yahoo.” Admittedly, the term seems a bit esoteric, but the idea that Yahoo is the most popular. anything Sounds fancy. But decades ago, when Yahoo was huge, it had an exclamation point at the end of its name. When you understand the internet like no other. And one might have imagined that there would be a huge, perhaps global, celebration to mark his 30th anniversary.
Instead, the date of January 30, 2024 (30 years since it was founded by Stanford students Jerry Yang and David Filo) passed with little notice. Facebook, which is still relatively young, has received far more coverage in the lead-up to its 20th anniversary on February 4th.
For a description of Yahoo circa 1995, computer magazine, at the time the largest and most influential computer magazine in the United States. I was working there at the time and seriously thought there was nothing better to find what you wanted on the rapidly expanding World Wide Web. Funnily enough, Yahoo wasn't a true index. Sure, Yahoo spidered the web like other early search engines, but it didn't do anything close to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to help you search.
Yahoo's browse tree-style search resembled a library's Dewey decimal system more than a powerful knowledge base. It's like things are grouped together and you can go down numerous rabbit holes to find what you need.
It wasn't my favorite “search engine”, mostly because of that. I found Alta Vista to be much more effective (sorry, Google is still years away). But Yahoo's power and dominance could not be denied. It was a big deal when PCMag's parent company, Ziff Davis, partnered with Yahoo to launch Yahoo!internet life. It seems wrong to publish a physical paper magazine about cool stuff on the internet. It seemed like a great idea at the time, and it was a deeper dive into Internet culture than any publication to date. The publication followed Yahoo's best years until the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2002.
Once a powerful brand
Still, I think Yahoo lost its way long before the Internet underwent its first major adjustment. I still remember when Yahoo signed a deal in 2000 to hand over all search on its site to Google. That's right, one of the first and once most admired Internet search platforms has sold its core business to a major rival. It seemed to me that Yahoo was giving up, but they were wrong. Yahoo never gave up. This was just the first in a decades-long business strategy to grow and build the service. This included building an impressive mobile suite of tools and turning the platform back into its own search engine in 2004.
Yahoo has been busy for decades, launching new services, sometimes frantically, forging partnerships, changing leadership the way other companies change shirts, and once featuring the likes of Katie Couric and Katie Couric. went on to build a media empire that swallowed up big names. New York Times' David Pogue. It still has a great email system and is my go-to place to watch live stock market charts. But it doesn't exist in my heart like Google or Apple does.
Yahoo's once ever-changing leadership continues to strive to steer the company in a brighter direction, most memorably with Marissa Mayer, the former Google executive who led one of the largest data breaches in technology history. (currently CEO of Sunshine Contacts).
This seemed like a fatal blow, but Yahoo somehow survived, even while giving up a large portion of its dreams of a media empire.
Yahoo changed the name of its parent company to Altaba after Verizon acquired the company for $4.5 billion in 2017. This is a far less weighty word than “Yahoo!”.
Yahoo may have lost all its sexiness, but it's still an online force. By some measures, the Yahoo.com home page is the most popular home page on the Internet. Yahoo adds a mix of original content from publications like TechCrunch and Huffington Post to the site, as well as syndicated news from other major news sources.
Search remains at the top of the Yahoo home page, but it ranks third in popularity behind Google and Bing, the latter of which has recently skyrocketed with the introduction of Bing AI (now CoPilot). As Google and Microsoft battle over AI-powered search, it's telling that there is no such thing as YahooAI.
It's difficult to reconcile today's Yahoo with that Clarion Call. “Yahoo!” Of the 90's. Almost anyone can play his three-note yodel, both online and offline. There was a sign with the old iconic logo on it.
It's a shame because it's not just Yahoo!. It used to be dominant. Yahoo defined the original World Wide Web and helped build the search and services roadmap that other companies, including Google, have followed in one form or another. The Internet might not exist today if Yahoo hadn't helped popularize and popularize it in the '90s.
If anyone stopped to celebrate or recognize Yahoo's milestones, I didn't see it. And that's just sad.
Yahoo's trajectory may serve as a warning for Facebook (meta), Google, and even TikTok today. No one is too big to fail or be forgotten.