Yahoo! flag

In the short time since Yahoo! Inc. went public, in 1996, this leading global Internet communications, commerce, and media company’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric. But its early growth, from personal Internet interest list to widely used directory for locating useful Websites, was meteoric as well. In February 1994, Yahoo! co-founders and then-Ph.D. candidates David Filo and Jerry Yang started “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web” as a way to keep track of their favorite Internet sites. By the fall of that year, word of their hierarchical list of links had spread well beyond their Stanford University trailer and Yahoo! experienced its first one-million-hit day, which translated to being visited by nearly 100,000 users.

Filo and Yang quickly realized that the little online guide they had put together could readily be turned into a useful business. Calling their creation Yahoo!, because the two liked the word’s meaning of “rude, unsophisticated, uncouth”—though some say Yahoo is an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle”—they secured venture capital and hired an expert management team: Tim Koogle, an experienced Stanford Engineering Department graduate and Motorola veteran, and Jeffrey Mallett, who had founded Novell’s WordPerfect consumer division. With 49 employees, Yahoo!— the exclamation mark was added because the word Yahoo had already been trademarked—was launched in a highly successful IPO.

Yahoo! headquarters

During the late 1990s, Yahoo! diversified from Web directory to Web portal, to provide eager users with many more services. The business acquired such companies as online communications group Four11, whose Web mail service Rocketmail became Yahoo! Mail;, which was turned into Yahoo! Games; direct marketing company Yoyodyne; Web hosting provider GeoCities; and eGroups, which became Yahoo! Groups. Yahoo! also launched Yahoo! Messenger at the end of the decade.

After surviving the dot-com bubble burst, Yahoo! continued to expand its services even further. It acquired several additional search engines, including Inktomi and AltaVista, and today its technology provides one of the largest search engines on the Web.

In 2005 it launched Yahoo! Music, which provides Internet radio, music videos, news, and original programming, and which became in 2007 the #1 online music site for audience reach and total time spent. The company also purchased the photo-sharing Web services business Flickr, which in 2007 had a repository of nearly one billion images. Other acquisitions include an online social event calendar company and the social bookmark site

Yahoo! is now one of the most trafficked Internet destinations, providing a huge array of services in four major categories: content, search and marketplace, community, and personalization. Led by CEO and “Chief Yahoo” Jerry Yang, key technologist and “Chief Yahoo” David Filo, and President Susan Decker, Sunnyvale-based Yahoo! is the world’s largest network of integrated services, with more than 500 million users and offices around the globe. As it looks to the future and offering increasing numbers of tools and solutions, the company remains committed to connecting people to their passions and to providing the power to create, gather, and share information.

This history was written in 2008 by the Silicon Valley Historical Association.

Yahoo! website