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Like many tech companies that made it big, Yahoo! has a rather inauspicious origin story. Initially, Yahoo! was the pet project of Jerry Yang and David Filo, graduate students in electrical engineering at Stanford University. “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web” (later “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web”) was simply a list of websites the friends found interesting. In March 1994, they renamed the site “Yahoo!” — partly in tribute to the Gulliver’s Travels definition of “yahoo” (rude, unsophisticated, uncouth) and partly as an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.” The domain was registered January 18, 1995.

Yahoo! takes off

Yahoo! could have been just another personal site (think GeoCities, which was acquired by Yahoo! in 1999). But one thing about the list made the internet-using public take note: its categories. Yang and Filo had started to make sense of the vast amounts of information available online (even in 1994). Site use grew rapidly — within six months, it had 50,000 visitors a day. In October 1994, the browser Netscape Navigator linked directly to Yahoo!, increasing site traffic to one million page views daily.

The Stanford computers on which the site was housed were overwhelmed, and the university asked Yang and Filo to relocate their project. Yahoo!’s founders began shopping for a solution. After turning down an acquisition offer from AOL, they sold 25 percent of Yahoo! to a venture capital firm, using the proceeds to start a company.

From there, Yahoo! has evolved over the past 25 years, from a major search player to a subsidiary of Verizon Media. Along the way, one thing has remained constant — the exclamation point. Reportedly, Yang and Filo added the punctuation to differentiate their website from a brand of barbecue sauce.

Photo:  garagestock / Shutterstock.


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Kate Johanns

Posted by Kate Johanns

Kate Johanns is a communications professional and freelance writer with more than 13 years of experience in publishing and marketing.

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