Just about anybody reading this will know what Yahoo! is. Yahoo! was the first of its kind: a man-made directory, on the Internet, for the Internet. It may have started small, but the popularity of this site now goes off the charts. Millions of people all over the world access Yahoo! every day, whether it is to search for a particular website, buy stuff from an auction, or to just randomly browse through the seemly never-ending categories and subcategories of websites that made Yahoo! famous.
Just a Hobby
The Yahoo! we know today started in February 1994, the creation of two PhD candidates at Stanford University - David Filo and Jerry Yang. They made Yahoo! so that they could keep track of their favourite websites as a list in their own website. They christened it: Jerry's Guide to the World Wide Web. When it was first created, the Internet was still in its early stages, with few large websites and few members of the public connected. But as the Internet grew, so did the list in 'Jerry's Guide to the World Wide Web', and David and Jerry were soon forced to divide the websites into specific categories, and then into subcategories as more and more websites sprang up on the Internet.
The modern name 'Yahoo!' was chosen as it was discovered to be (after extensive dictionary work) an acronym for 'Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle', as well as a word meaning 'a crude, brutish or obscenely coarse person'1. So Yahoo! was born.
Towards the end of 1994, visitors from outside Stanford University campus started having a look at this creation. Word spread around, and not long after, Yahoo! had a million-hit day. Obviously, people liked the idea of a website to search for other websites.
With visitors streaming in from all corners of the globe, the founders realised that their once small and insignificant website could now be turned into a business. So in April 1995, Yahoo! received its first funding (of $2 million from Sequoia Capital) and officially became a business. A year later, Yahoo! launched their IPO (with 49 employees) after they had begun to employ more and more people, some with more experience in hi-tech corporations. After that kick start, the business has never looked back.
Business was looking good when an Internet boom hit during the early parts of the year 2000. Values of shares across the board of Internet corporations rose and rose, until the peak in March 2000. But then hi-tech shares plummeted, taking Yahoo! with them. Yahoo!, once worth over $100 billion, (around £60 billion), was losing money every day. It was threatened with collapse, like every other Internet company during that time.
Its popularity sort of saved it - Yahoo! started to regain some of the hundreds of millions of dollars lost during the boom as it gradually changed its basic interface from being just an Internet directory to a website also concentrating on exploiting consumers, a huge platform for all Internet companies. This has seen it make profits recently - small as they may be, it's a big step towards stability. Yahoo! is now worth just $8 billion, but maybe, in the near future, it will rise again to its former financial glory.
Yahoo! may have been around for a while, but it is still just as popular as ever. No longer just an Internet directory or a search engine, it now spans a variety of services, providing handy stuff like auctions, shops, games, free email, clubs, personal website space, etc - the list goes on and on. This expansion is mainly due to the fact that Yahoo! has acquired many companies since its incorporation, companies such as GeoCities (in May 1999), which became part of Yahoo! and provided space on the web for the personal websites of the members of Yahoo!, until it closed in 2010. Examples of other companies swallowed up by Yahoo! Inc in the same way are eGroups (in August 2000), Sold.com (in April 2001), and Launch Media (in June 2001). In total, Yahoo! has acquired 20 companies since its inception. This has made Yahoo!'s domination of the World Wide Web not unlike the domination of Microsoft in the PC platform market. Yahoo! has also 'broadened its horizons' since its incorporation - the website is now available in 12 different languages, and the company has offices around the world.
But as with any large corporation, Yahoo! has its problems. It is nowhere near perfect, and though many people will not encounter anything wrong, there are always a few who are hit very badly indeed by the numerous bugs in Yahoo!. The problems are mainly caused by the way in which Yahoo! has grown - by taking over smaller companies. Though this may improve its business, it may not be very reliable, as they are taking over something that they did not start. For example, many users of Yahoo! have recently been annoyed by their GeoCities websites mysteriously disappearing and being replaced by 'We cannot find the webpage you are looking for' messages. Also, a big problem occurred with the takeover of eGroups, when Yahoo! had to control two email servers. They had decided to keep their own as well, causing havoc at the other server.
But Yahoo! is certainly unique in the universe of websites we call the Internet, and it always will be. It started as the hobby of two students, and has grown to become a huge Internet directory which over 237 million people visit each month.
For those of you who don't know, Yahoo! can be found at the following address: www.yahoo.com