News broke out on Monday that Verizon, one of the giants of the U.S. telecom industry, is acquiring Yahoo for a small fraction of what it was worth during the dot-com boom glory days. Reports said the agreement was worth five billion dollars in cash — which is a lot but still nowhere near Yahoo’s $125-billion valuation in 2000, when it had enough in the coffers to buy Google.
And although the deal has yet to be fully ironed out — it will be completed sometime in 2017 — the death knell has sounded, the fate of an internet pioneer has been decided, and it looks like its next chapter will involve mobile video.
Yahoo, as you and I know it, is no more, even if it retains its name.
(Time for a disclosure: I wrote tech stories for Yahoo Philippines. My partner worked as an editor for the company.)
This isn’t a eulogy for Yahoo; it has historically done well on the stock market. People far smarter than I am said its stock outperformed its contemporaries from a bygone era. Unfortunately, its accomplishments on Wall Street didn’t mean as much to the people in Silicon Valley and to the rest of the world.
We should’t shed a tear for the company, or its investors. We could instead take a nice, casual walk on memory lane.
My early exposure to the web started with Yahoo services: the Yahoo landing page was my Facebook News Feed; the email and chat clients were my Gmail and Messenger and Slack apps; Yahoo Music on the desktop messenger app was my Spotify; Yahoo Groups was my Reddit; and all my searches were done on the Yahoo homepage.
If I wanted to get things done online in the late ’90s, Yahoo was my first click. For the vast majority of the population, including myself, Yahoo wasn’t on the internet, it was the internet.
And I wasn’t alone; my brother, all my friends — we were on the same page. These were innocent times, before hackers and malware coders and trolls and cyberbullies and mean-spirited armchair critics.
I’d be lying to you if I said at that time I thought the status quo would never change, but it did irrevocably. My social circle stopped using Yahoo for anything except to tell the people around them to use Google or Friendster or Napster instead. Being the impressionable youth I was, I gave in and signed out.
Your story is probably different than mine. But the ending is nevertheless familiar: We signed out.
Over the next few months, pundits will argue why Yahoo’s empire crumbled; why Marissa Mayer, the ex-Google executive tasked to lead the company’s comeback efforts, couldn’t keep the roofs and pillars from collapsing; and what could have been done to stop the cracks from showing.
I share the sentiment that it didn’t pivot fast enough to take full advantage of the digital ad market, and that Yahoo couldn’t decide what it wanted to be, even as Google was attempting to usurp its dominance in search. Most damning of all is its failure to act on shifting consumer preferences, the shift from desktop to mobile computing and from websites to apps.
I still have two active Yahoo Mail accounts: There’s one I check less frequently than my Google inbox; the other, I couldn’t care less about — it’s probably full of spam, anyway. That’s about the extent of Yahoo’s influence on my life today, its role reduced to housing possibly malicious emails.
How times have changed.