RIP, Yahoo Directory

Yahoo has closed down one of the most historic and prominent sites in the history of the internet. Once thought of as the Google of the internet, the directory is no longer to be found. Going to dir.yahoo.com now redirects you to aabacosmallbusiness.com. For some, it may seem like there has always been Google, and it’s always been the main way people have found things on the web. But before Google, there was the Yahoo Directory and its hand-compiled list of websites, organized into topics. So what led to the downfall of once a mighty ruler to a slow and quiet death? Lets look at the journey

Yahoo- The ruler

The most common way people found websites when Yahoo began in 1994,was to browse through lists, where sites were often organized into topics.

Founders Jerry Yang and David Filo  realized their own list needed a better name than “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web.” They settled on Yahoo! (with exclamation mark). That stood for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle” — a reference to organizing sites in a hierarchical order.Yahoo quickly became the most popular search engine on the web.

A “directory” relies on humans to review websites, summarize them with short descriptions and organize them into a categories. When Yahoo started, this system was effective, because there weren’t that many pages on the web  and automated search technology to organize websites wasn’t very good.

That contributed in a big way to Yahoo’s popularity over traditional search engines like InfoSeek or Excite that used automation. Yahoo had better relevance. You could find what you were looking for.

The popularity of Yahoo was so much that it was a privilege for publishers to be listed. From around 1996-1999, there were long delays to list new sites. Sites that did get in could find they were effectively invisible because a Yahoo editor might have changed their descriptions in a way that didn’t include important keywords.

So what led to the closure of Yahoo directory?

Yahoo quickly became the most popular search engine on the web. By search engine, Search engine during that time was a generic term of any service that helps you locate information, rather than the more technical one of a service that locates information by “crawling” pages automatically and allowing you to keyword search to find any pages that match your keywords.

The above difference is important, because it was this distinction that led to Yahoo’s eventual downturn as a search resource and directly to the coming closure of the Yahoo Directory.

With Yahoo, it was as if you were searching for books in a library using an old-fashioned card catalog system, where all you knew about a book was 25 words or so describing it.Google came along in 1998 and quickly proved that you could have search results generated by automation, rather than through human effort, and have better relevancy.With Google, it was as if you could search through every page of every book in the library. You didn’t miss that needle in a haystack. Google’s search algorithm was better than others.

Yahoo’s Partnership with his murderer i.e Google

Google’s search algorithm was so good that in 2000, Yahoo partnered up with Google. Yahoo had long partnered with crawler-based search engines, so that if there were no matches from its own directory, the crawler search engine provided some “backup” answers. Google became Yahoo’s fourth partner: Open Text was the first, AltaVista the second and Inktomi the third.

By 2002, Yahoo realized that Google’s search results were so good that it presented those as the main listings to searchers at Yahoo. That was effectively the start of the Yahoo Directory’s long, slow-death.

The End of Yahoo! Directory

In 2003, Yahoo completed the purchase of Inktomi, so it could have its own crawler-based listings. That led to end of its deal with Google. But by then, for Google, it didn’t matter. Google had long overpowered Yahoo in the race as the most popular search engine out there. Eventually, Yahoo even abandoned its own search technology and outsourced to Microsoft for it. Yahoo never regained its lost throne and it was recent that its closure was announced in a quiet manner.Yahoo shared the news, a short paragraph that’s part of announcing two other closures, under a headline of “Progress Report: Continued Product Focus.

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