Happy 19th - 19 Milestones of Yahoo!


Yahoo!, the iconic web company celebrated its 19th birthday yesterday. Although this organization has played a big role in shaping the World Wide Web as we know it, the journey has been a series of missed opportunities. Just goes to show how hard it is to predict and ride the next technology wave and stay relevant as a tech company. Irrespective, surviving nearly two decades as a technology company, the dot com bust of 2000, the housing mortgage crash of 2008 and numerous small troughs is no mean feat. Here’s a look at 19 milestones on Yahoo’s 19th birthday:

1) Jerry Yang & David Filo created ‘Jerry & David’s Guide to the World Wide Web’ while studying at Stanford University in January 1994. It was officially renamed to Yahoo! in March of that year and was incorporated only in March 1995 (hence the birthday celebrations)

Fun Fact: Jerry Yang, born in Taiwan, moved to San Jose at the age of 10 and earned his BS and MS in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University

2) Timothy Koogle was named the first CEO as Yahoo! launched the first commercial site including advertisements and a news feed taken from Reuters. These were the initial days of a business model where content sites generated ad revenues

Fun Fact: Yahoo! has had 8 CEOs till date, including 2 interim CEOs and 2 women CEOs

3) Yahoo! had its IPO in April 1996. On the opening day, the share price closed at $33, which was 270 per cent from the IPO price

Fun Fact: At the height of the dot com bubble in 2000, the stock price hit an all-time high of $500 intra-day. The stock price as of today is $38.67

4) Yahoo! Mail was launched in 1997, with technology from the acquired Rocketmail included. Yahoo! Mail currently has more than 300 million users and is widely used

Fun Fact: Hotmail had launched in 1996 and Yahoo! had an option to either build or acquire. Since Hotmail was adding thousands of users every week, they did not want to build it in-house

5) Yahoo! acquired Viaweb for $49 million in stock in 1998. Viaweb was one of the first e-Commerce store creation tools where users with no technical expertise could easily create a store

Fun Fact: Viaweb was founded by Paul Graham, who is currently well known as a venture capitalist and founder of the Y-Combinator

6) Much before billion-dollar acquisitions were in vogue, Yahoo! acquired Geocities for $4.58 billion and Broadcast.com for $5.7 billion in stock in 1999

Fun Fact: Geocities was the third most visited website in the world when Yahoo! acquired it

7) Dot com bubble was nothing but an unrealistic expectation about the World Wide Web, without fully understanding the potential of the business models possible. Pure-play Internet companies were the most affected

Fun Fact: Yahoo! stocks closed at an all-time low of $8.11 in 2001 during the bust

8) Yahoo! acquired HotJobs in 2002, a leading job search engine, beating the offer by Monster

Fun Fact: Hotjobs never took off under Yahoo! Purchased for $436 million, it was sold off 8 years later in 2010 to Monster for $225 million

9) Yahoo! was a relatively early adopter of globalization, and created its India R&D center in 2003 with plans to ramp up to 150 employees

Fun Fact: The Bangalore center was the first center outside the headquarters at Sunnvale, California

10) Yahoo! dropped Google-powered search results and launches its own web crawling algorithm in 2004. Technology from the recently (2002) acquired Inktomi was leveraged for the purpose

Fun Fact: Google started in 1998 and had an advantage in refining the business model, and Yahoo! could never catch up

11) Created Yahoo! Research Labs to focus on new technologies and platforms in 2004

Fun Fact: Microsoft had created a research division in 1991, starting the trend of creating a separate division focused on research away from the usual product development team

12) Acquired email provider Oddpost which was pioneering the Ajax technique where every click did not result in the whole page reloading. Further, it replicated the simple three-pane view of a desktop mail application and drag-and-drop features, giving Yahoo! Mail a lead compared to its competitors

Fun Fact: Google incorporated many learnings from Oddpost’s interface and features and launched Gmail in 2004

13) Yahoo! launched beta video search engine in 2004, but failed to create a business model around it

Fun Fact: YouTube was founded in 2005 and acquired by Google in 2006. Google yet again figured out a business model related to video quicker than Yahoo!

14) Yahoo! 360 was a social networking and personal communication portal launched in 2005. It had most features that are prevalent in today’s social networks – create a public profile, have a blog, share photos from Yahoo! Photos and see which friends are online

Fun Fact: Orkut and Facebook both launched in 2004

15) Yahoo! acquired a 40% stake in Alibaba.com for $1 billion in 2005

Fun Fact: This proved to be the saving grace in later years as profits from Yahoo!’s stake in Alibaba bolstered the balance sheet and also sold off half its stake for $7.1 billion in 2012

16) Jerry Yang finally took over the CEO’s role in 2007 but managed to stay on for a tumultuous 18 months

Fun Fact: Jerry Yang resigned from all positions of Yahoo including the Board of Directors in 2012. He currently serves on the Board of Cisco. Co-founder David Filo stays on at Yahoo! as Co-founder and Chief Yahoo

17) Microsoft made the mother-of-all-bids – of $44.6 billion to acquire Yahoo! (the exclamatory mark is justified here)

Fun Fact: Activist investor Carl Icahn lobbied to get this bid accepted, but the deal finally fell through

18) Marissa Mayer was hired from Google and appointed the eighth CEO in July 2012. Controversies have followed Marissa Mayer’s tenure – her astronomical compensation while Yahoo! is floundering, posing for a fashion magazine, string of acquisitions with mixed results, cancelling the work from home feature – have all played a part

Fun Fact: In Marissa Mayer’s tenure, Yahoo! has acquired 35 companies till date

19) In a brief return to the glory of yore, in July 2013, Yahoo! became the #1 site in terms of unique visitors

Fun Fact: Yahoo! had 196.5 million unique visitors, narrowly inching out Google