By Harry McCracken | Friday, August 7, 2009 at 10:55 pm
Do you remember the first time you searched the Web? I do. In vivid detail. It was in late October or early November of 1994, in a conference room at PC World. My friend Pete Loshin showed me a new site that he explained could find information on the Internet. I performed this query as a test, and was amazed by the results. Which probably amounted to all of ten or fifteen sites–but hey, we’re talking 1994.
The search site was, of course, Yahoo–the site that introduced the world to the idea of finding stuff on the Web, and prospered by doing so. So I’m puzzled (along with others) by new Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz’s statement to the New York Times that Yahoo has “never been a search company.”
Okay, I’m not completely surprised. Yahoo stopped being focused entirely on search pretty early on. It tended to outsource aspects of search to competitors such as AltaVista and, later, Google–and then it had its lunch eaten by Google. After a period of trying to build its own world-class search engine, it’s now decided to outsource the whole shebang to Microsoft for the next decade. Yahoo’s future, clearly, is not about search–and I guess it’s convenient to maintain that its past wasn’t, either.
But I can’t believe I’m the only person who became entranced by the early Web in part because early Yahoo was so amazing who’s saddened to see the company keep its own roots at arm’s length, as it were. Here’s the Yahoo I remember–except this version is from 1996, so the one I visited in 1994 would have been even cruder.