Yahoo was established by Jerry Yang and David Filo in January 1994 and was one of the pioneers of the early Internet era in the 1990s. In 2000, it was the most popular website worldwide. Usage declined in the late 2000's as it lost market share to Google. However, Yahoo domain websites are still among the most popular websites, ranking 12th in global engagement according to both Alexa Internet and SimilarWeb.
The Yahoo home page in 1994, when it was a directory. A search engine was added in 1995.
In January 1994, Yang and Filo were electrical engineering graduate students at Stanford University, when they created a website named "Jerry and David's guide to the World Wide Web". The site was a human-edited web directory, organized in a hierarchy, as opposed to a searchable index of pages. In March 1994, "Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web" was renamed "Yahoo!" and became known as the Yahoo Directory. The "yahoo.com" domain was registered on January 18, 1995.
The word "yahoo" is a backronym for "Yet Another Hierarchically Organized Oracle" or "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle". The term "hierarchical" described how the Yahoo database was arranged in layers of subcategories. The term "oracle" was intended to mean "source of truth and wisdom", and the term "officious", rather than being related to the word's normal meaning, described the many office workers who would use the Yahoo database while surfing from work. However, Filo and Yang insist they mainly selected the name because they liked the slang definition of a "yahoo" (used by college students in David Filo's native Louisiana in the late 1980s and early 1990s to refer to an unsophisticated, rural Southerner): "rude, unsophisticated, uncouth." This meaning derives from the Yahoo race of fictional beings from Gulliver's Travels.
Yahoo was incorporated on March 2, 1995. In 1995, a search engine function, called Yahoo Search, was introduced. This allowed users to search Yahoo Directory. Yahoo soon became the first popular online directory and search engine on the World Wide Web.
Map showing localized versions of Yahoo! web portals, as of 2008
Yahoo grew rapidly throughout the 1990s. Yahoo became a public company via an initial public offering in April 1996 and its stock price rose 600% within two years. Like many search engines and web directories, Yahoo added a web portal, putting it in competition with services including Excite, Lycos, and America Online. By 1998, Yahoo was the most popular starting point for web users, and the human-edited Yahoo Directory the most popular search engine, receiving 95 million page views per day, triple that of rival Excite. It also made many high-profile acquisitions. Yahoo began offering free e-mail from October 1997 after the acquisition of RocketMail, which was then renamed to Yahoo Mail. In 1998, Yahoo replaced AltaVista as the crawler-based search engine underlying the Directory with Inktomi. Yahoo's two biggest acquisitions were made in 1999: Geocities for $3.6 billion and Broadcast.com for $5.7 billion.
Its stock price skyrocketed during the dot-com bubble, closing at an all-time high of $118.75/share on January 3, 2000. However, after the dot-com bubble burst, it reached a post-bubble low of $8.11 on September 26, 2001.
Yahoo began using Google for search in June 2000. Over the next four years, it developed its own search technologies, which it began using in 2004 partly using technology from its $280 million acquisition of Inktomi in 2002. In response to Google's Gmail, Yahoo began to offer unlimited email storage in 2007. In 2008, the company laid off hundreds of people as it struggled from competition.
Yahoo headquarters in 2001
In February 2008, Microsoft made an unsolicited bid to acquire Yahoo for $44.6 billion. Yahoo rejected the bid, claiming that it "substantially undervalues" the company and was not in the interest of its shareholders. Although Microsoft increased its bid to $47 billion, Yahoo insisted on another 10%+ increase to the offer and Microsoft cancelled the offer in May 2008.
Carol Bartz, who had no previous experience in Internet advertising, replaced Yang as CEO in January 2009. In September 2011, after failing to meet targets, she was fired by chairman Roy J. Bostock; CFO Tim Morse was named as Interim CEO of the company.
In April 2012, after the appointment of Scott Thompson as CEO, several key executives resigned, including chief product officerBlake Irving. On April 4, 2012, Yahoo announced 2,000 layoffs, or about 14% of its 14,100 workers by the end of year, expected to save around $375 million annually. In an email sent to employees in April 2012, Thompson reiterated his view that customers should come first at Yahoo. He also completely reorganized the company.
On July 15, 2012, Marissa Mayer was appointed president and CEO of Yahoo, effective July 17, 2012.
In June 2013, Yahoo acquired blogging site Tumblr for $1.1 billion in cash, with Tumblr's CEO and founder David Karp continuing to run the site. In July 2013, Yahoo announced plans to open an office in San Francisco.
On August 2, 2013, Yahoo acquired Rockmelt; its staff was retained, but all of its existing products were terminated.
Data collated by comScore during July 2013 revealed that, during the month, more people in the U.S. visited Yahoo websites than Google; the first time that Yahoo outperformed Google since 2011. The data did not count mobile usage, nor Tumblr.
Mayer also hired Katie Couric to be the anchor of a new online news operation and started an online food magazine. However, by January 2014, doubts of Mayer's progress emerged when Mayer fired her own first major hire, Henrique de Castro.
On February 21, 2017, as a result of the Yahoo data breaches, Verizon lowered its purchase price for Yahoo by $350 million and reached an agreement to share liabilities regarding the data breaches.
In September 2013, Yahoo's transparency report said the company received 29,000 requests for information about users from governments in the first six months of 2013. Over 12,000 of the requests came from the United States.
In October 2013, The Washington Post reported that the U.S. National Security Agency intercepted communications between Yahoo's data centers, as part of a program named Muscular.
In late January 2014, Yahoo announced on its company blog that it had detected a "coordinated effort" to hack into possibly millions of Yahoo Mail accounts. The company prompted users to reset their passwords, but did not elaborate on the scope of the possible breach, citing an ongoing federal investigation.
In August 2015, researchers at Malwarebytes, notified Yahoo about its users getting hacked because of vulnerabilities in Adobe Flash Player. According to them, the vulnerability could allow attackers to install "ransomware" on users' computers and lock their files until the customers pay the criminals.
Storing personal information and tracking usage
Yahoo! Kimo (Taiwan) Open Hack Day event in 2008
This section's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information.(June 2012)
Working with comScore, in March 2008, The New York Times found that Yahoo was able to collect far more data about users than its competitors from its Web sites and advertising network. By one measure, on average Yahoo had the potential in December 2007 to build a profile of 2,500 records per month about each of its visitors, much more than MySpace, AOL, or Google. Yahoo retains search requests for a period of 13 months. However, in response to European regulators, Yahoo obfuscates the IP address of users after three months by deleting its last eight bits. Yahoo at the time had a 2-petabyte, specially built data warehouse that it used to analyze the behavior of its users.
Do Not Track
On March 29, 2012, Yahoo announced that it would introduce a "Do Not Track" feature that summer, allowing users to opt out of Web-visit tracking and customized advertisements. However, on April 30, 2014, Yahoo announced that it would no longer support the "Do Not Track" browser setting.
On September 22, 2016, Yahoo disclosed a data breach that occurred in late 2014, in which information associated with at least 500 million user accounts, one of the largest breaches reported to date. The United States indicted four men, including two employees of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), for their involvement in the hack. On December 14, 2016, the company revealed that another separate data breach had occurred in 2014, with hackers obtaining sensitive account information, including security questions, to at least one billion accounts. The company stated that hackers had utilized stolen internal software to forge HTTP cookies.
On October 3, 2017, the company stated that all 3 billion of its user accounts were affected by the August 2013 theft.
In April 2005, dissident Shi Tao was sentenced to 10 years in prison for providing state secrets to foreign entities as a result of being identified by IP address by Yahoo. Human rights organizations and the company's general counsel disputed the extent of Yahoo's foreknowledge of Shi's fate. Human rights groups also accuse Yahoo of aiding authorities in the arrest of dissidents Li Zhi and Jiang Lijun. In April 2017, Yahoo was sued for failing to uphold settlement agreements in this case. Yahoo pledged to give support to the families of those arrested and create a relief fund for those persecuted for expressing their views online with Yahoo Human Rights Trust. Of the $17.3 million allotted to this fund, $13 million had been used for a townhouse in Washington, DC and other purchases.
In September 2003, dissident Wang Xiaoning was convicted of charges of "incitement to subvert state power" and was sentenced to ten years in prison. Yahoo Hong Kong connected Wang's group to a specific Yahoo e-mail address. Both Xiaoning's wife and the World Organization for Human Rights sued Yahoo under human rights laws on behalf of Wang and Shi.
Enabling sexual predators
As a result of media scrutiny relating to Internet child predators and a lack of significant ad revenues, Yahoo's "user created" chatrooms were closed down in June 2005. On May 25, 2006, Yahoo's image search was criticized for bringing up sexually explicit images even when SafeSearch was active.
Connection to shark fin sales via previous investment in Alibaba
In August 2015, Yahoo acquired a 40% stake in Alibaba Group which was a subject of controversy for allowing the sale of shark-derived products. The company banned the sale of shark fin products on all its e-commerce platforms effective January 1, 2009.
Censorship of private emails affiliated with Occupy Wall Street protests
After some concerns over censorship of private emails regarding a website affiliated with Occupy Wall Street protests were raised, Yahoo responded with an apology and explained it as an accident.
The 2015 Dublin LGBTQ Pride Festival, sponsored by Yahoo
On September 11, 2001 Yahoo! announced its partnership with FIFA for the 2002 FIFA World Cup and 2006 FIFA World Cup tournaments. It was one of FIFA's 15 partners at the tournaments. The deal included co-branding the organization's websites.
The first Yahoo logo was established upon foundation of the company in 1994. It consists of the "Yahoo" wordmark which is colored black and is using the Times New Roman font, but it was later changed.
In March 1995, when the company changed its name to Yahoo, it introduced another logo which is briefly changed to a more elaborate text that includes an exclamation point at the end.
In August 1995, Yahoo changed its logo to a stylized yellow jumping "Y" figurine on a blue circle while the "Yahoo!" wordmark is written below.
On January 1, 1996, Yahoo introduced a simplified new logo that included the text "Yahoo" and an exclamation mark, both in red with a slight shadow behind the text.
Yahoo! sign with address at its headquarters in 2007; it always used a purple sign despite the website itself having the red variant
By May 2009, Yahoo tweaked the logo by recoloring it from red to purple and removing the logo's outline and shadow. At the time, the purple logo was accompanied by a new slogan, "It's Y!ou." A shortened variant of the logo, consisting of only the letter "Y" and an exclamation point, was also used.
On August 7, 2013, at around midnight EDT, Yahoo announced that the final version of the new logo would be revealed on September 5, 2013 at 4:00 a.m. UTC. In the period leading up to the unveiling of the new logo, the "30 Days of Change" campaign was introduced, whereby a variation of the logo was published every day for the 30 days following the announcement. The new logo was eventually launched with an accompanying video that showed its digital construction, and Mayer published a personalized description of the design process on her Tumblr page. Mayer explains:
So, one weekend this summer, I rolled up my sleeves and dove into the trenches with our logo design team ... We spent the majority of Saturday and Sunday designing the logo from start to finish, and we had a ton of fun weighing every minute detail. We knew we wanted a logo that reflected Yahoo - whimsical, yet sophisticated. Modern and fresh, with a nod to our history. Having a human touch, personal. Proud.
A Yahoo-branded PC keyboard
On September 19, 2013, Yahoo launched a new version of the "My Yahoo" personalized homepage. The redesign allows users to tailor a homepage with widgets that access features such as email accounts, calendars, Flickr and other Yahoo content, and Internet content. Users can also select "theme packs" that represent artists such as Polly Apfelbaum and Alec Monopoly, and bands such as Empire of the Sun. Mayer then explained at a conference in late September 2013 that the logo change was the result of feedback from both external parties and employees.
In September 2019 Yahoo changed its logo again for a "refreshed brand identity [that] is simpler and more flexible, and looks back to the original, quirky 1996 logo." The logo is a white text set against a purple background, with both the "y" and "!" of the logo reportedly set at an angle of 22.5 degrees. The logo was designed by Pentagram.
Wordmark used from January 1, 1996 to September 4, 2013 (shown: purple variant used from 2009); red version still used by Yahoo! Japan
Yahoo's fifth and previous logo, September 2013-September 2019
Yahoo's sixth and current logo, September 2019-present