Web Archaeology: Yahoo! Relics

Do you remember what Yahoo looked like in 1994? Most people, even early users, don't remember the simple bare-bones, ad-free guide to the web that popped up soon after the first graphical web browsers appeared. Fortunately, digging into the web reveals several fascinating relics of the service that later morphed into the "everything to everybody" portal we're familiar with today.

Yahoo got its start as a humble subdirectory on the "akebono" server at Stanford University, assembled by two computer science grad students named David Filo and Jerry Yang. The founders demonstrated a prescient marketing sense early on, changing the original name from "Jerry's Guide to the World Wide Web" to Yahoo

According to Yahoo's official history page, "The name Yahoo is supposed to stand for "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle" but Filo and Yang insist they selected the name because they considered themselves yahoos."

In May 1995, little more than a year after Yahoo was born, Mark Holt and Marc Sacoolas interviewed Filo and Yang. The two "Chief Yahoos" were quite candid and detailed about their plans and dreams. Here are a few of the more interesting tidbits from the interview.

- Webmasters could add their own links to Yahoo

- Filo and Yang never submitted Yahoo to any other search service. Yahoo's popularity grew simply by word of mouth and other sites linking to it.

- In May 1995, Yahoo was running on four loaned servers at Netscape, and the size of its database was only about 30 megabytes.

- When asked whether they had any industry experience, had ever run a bulletin board system before, or had mentors for business advice, Filo and Yang replied "No."

Some classic quotes:

"Of course Microsoft could compete with us if they decided to build Internet directories themselves."

"It's quite interesting because many venture capital funded firms haven't yet supported Internet companies."

"A year from now, we should have between 10-15 people [on staff”."

"Five years is ridiculous to even think about. I mean, in a year who knows what's going to happen on the Internet."

The interview is a great read, and dramatically illustrates how much things have change over the past six years.

Chief Yahoos: David Filo and Jerry Yang
Part one of this interview contains background information and some technical notes on Yahoo's operation. Part two is fascinating, describing Filo and Yang's business plans.

1994 Mirror of Yahoo
See what Yahoo looked like when it contained just 23,836 entries -- and note the Copyright © 1994 David Filo and Jerry Yang at the bottom of the page!

1996 Mirror of Yahoo
The growth has begun, with the introduction of "the rest of the family" including the Yahoo Surf Shop, Yahooligans!, Yahoo Japan and Yahoo Internet Life .

Search Engine Gallery
Search Engine Watch members have access to an extensive visual display of how search engines have changed over the years. More information on becoming a member is available at http://searchenginewatch.com/about/subscribe.html

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