The world's first online search engine ceases to be a separate entity this week
By Anand Parthasarathy
In early 1994, 2 electrical engineering students at Stanford University -- Jerry Yang and David Filo created a a website named "Jerry and David's guide to the World Wide Web". The site was a directory of other websites, a help to users of the nascent Internet. A year later they had given it a name -- Yahoo --and formed a company to run the business. It was an acronym for Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.
At the time, the phrase had not been coined -- but Yahoo was in fact the world's first "Internet Search Engine". A small army of young people called "Surfers" were hired to manually recommend the best sites on any subject. Employee number 5 was Srinija Srinivasan, another Stanford undergrad who met David and Jerry in the cafetaria -- and was persuaded to join the surfer team on the strength of her skill in classifying her CD music collection. She was one of the core team that helped create Yahoo News in 1995 - and stayed with the company for another 15 years till 2011 Today Srinija, 44, lives in Palo Alto, California but works for a music startup in Brooklyn and is a trustee of Stanford University. Earlier this week she shared her memories of the years as a Yahoo search leader with the New York Times.
In 1998 Yahoo was the most popular web portal. But like so many other web entities, Yahoo was eclipsed by Google. Ironically from 2000, Yahoo which began as a search engine before becoming a leading Web portal, used Google to fuel its search.
India operations: In the first decade of this century, Yahoo increasingly depended for innovation on its Indian teams. Over a third of the company’s innovations have flowed from the company’s India-based development centres, which the then CEO Carol Bartz ( who took over from Jerry Yang in 2009), visited regularly. In 2012, the India centre joined with IIT Madras to set up the country's first Grid Computing Lab. Co-founder David Filo was for many years a regular visitor to Bangalore where he helped judge the annual Yahoo hackathons—inhouse competitions of innovation.
Revenue-wise India accounted for just around $ 100million of annual revenue – but Yahoo Mail became a leader in the web-mail sector in this country and fiercely loyal following in areas like Cricket ensured Yahoo’s sports coverage delivered an Indian Internet audience of nearly 50 million unique visitors every month.
In 2012, Yahoo made another attempt to make itself relevant -- by hiring high profile Google executive Marissa Meyer as CEO. She tried to drive some seriousness into Yahoo's legendary laid-back style -- she famously abolished the flexible working hours and the "work from home" culture that Silicon Valley USA swore by. But none of it helped very much. The only part of Yahoo that was financially successful was its investment in the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and to some extent, Yahoo Japan. The rest was hived off last year to US telecom giant Verizon for a modest $ 4.48 billion dollars.
O)n June 13) Yahoo ceased to be a separate entity. Verizon which has completed the acquisition, is to merge the Yahoo elements ironically, with another pioneering Internet company AOL, which it acquired in 2015. The combined entity is to be called Oath and will be led by former AOL CEO, Tim Armstrong. Marissa Meyer the last Yahoo CEO will leave -- with a golden parachute worth $ 23 million. Not so fortunate are some 2000 Yahoo employees -- including possibly some in India -- who are expected to lose their jobs.
SEE OUR PICTURE STORY ON YAHOO HERE
The last vestige of Yahoo remaining from the lucrative Alibaba partnership will also vanish. It will now be called Altaba.
Yahoo had many Indian admirers -- it was for long the most popular web -based free email service and even up until last year, there were regular updates and innovations to YahooMail. The India edition of the portal Yahoo, in.yahoo.com was known for its good sports coverage. And the huge Yahoo Software Development facility in Bangalore in the Domlur area was the nursery for thousands of skilled programmers.
The portal remains -- as of now and my Yahoo mail account is still very much working. But b prepared for some rechristening. "Oath.in"? Lacks the magic that we enjoyed for almost a quarter century. So long Yahoo!