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What Went Wrong With Yahoo!?



What Went Wrong With Yahoo!?

At the turn of the millennium, Yahoo! was the most visited site on the web and was valued at $125 billion. It consisted of a search engine, an email service, a messaging app, and a web hosting service that was also the largest social network on the internet. In Web 1.0 terms, Yahoo! was like Google and Facebook combined. In 2017, Yahoo’s services were sold to Verizon for less than $5 billion.

So what happened?

How could such a big company deteriorate like that? What could Yahoo!’s management have done to avoid such a faith? Could something similar happen to one of today’s tech giants? To answer these questions, we’ll need to go three decades back in time.

Google for $1M? No, Thanks.

In the early 1990s, it looked like every organization was launching a website just for the sake of it. With so many options, how could the average internet user, who paid for a dial-up connection on a per-minute basis, decide where to go?


Yahoo! founders Jerry Yang (left) and David Filo with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

In January 1994, David Filo and Jerry Yang introduced Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web: a human-edited directory of sites. Two months later, this catchy name was shortened to Yahoo (the ! was added a year later). Once the site became popular, the company could start charging money from those who wanted to add their site to the directory.

The following year, the site added an internal search engine. In 1996, that engine was replaced with that of AltaVista, which was one of the first to use a web crawler to discover many more websites than the number considered to exist at the time.

At the same time, to maximize the time people spent on the site, Yahoo! tried to become a “web portal” with news stories, maps and a kids’ section called Yahooligans! In 1997, the company acquired the popular RocketMail client, renaming it Yahoo! Mail, and added public chat rooms.

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In 1998, Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin offered to sell their PageRank system to Yahoo! for $1 million, but were turned down. At that point, the rejection actually made sense: a tool that adds and ranks sites automatically would go against Yahoo!’s financial strategy. Since AltaVista and others had rejected similar offers, Yahoo! also didn’t feel compelled to buy Google just so its competitors wouldn’t.

In early 1999, Yahoo! could use its overblown share price to make its two most expensive acquisitions. For $3.57 billion in stock, it bought GeoCities, a web hosting service that was the third-most popular site on the internet but still losing money.


In GeoCities, sites were organized into “neighborhoods” – the equivalent of Facebook groups. Within a site like Yahoo!, those neighborhoods could be utilized to display relevant news stories, for example. Instead, within two years the neighborhoods were gradually eliminated, turning GeoCities into a generic hosting service.

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For $5.7 billion in stock, Yahoo! also purchased a popular but not profitable radio streaming service owned by Mark Cuban, that was trying to get into video streaming. Cuban quickly sold most of his stock and became a billionaire. The site was renamed Yahoo! Broadcast, and shut down by 2003 as the market for video streaming was still small. The acquisition, which was fittingly finalized on April 1, has been called one of the worst web-related purchases.

By the year 2000, Yahoo! likely started to realize the mistake in not buying Google, as it started using Google as its search engine provider for $7 million per year. The deal not only strengthened Google financially, but turned it into a household name. In 2001, Timothy Koogle left his job as Yahoo!’s CEO, and was replaced by Terry Semel.

Alibaba and the 40%

Before Yahoo!, Semel was known as the co-CEO of Warner Bros. and had no experience in tech companies, indicating that Yahoo! still saw itself as a content provider, or what’s known today as a Web 1.0 company.

Shortly after his appointment, Semel met with Brin and Page and offered to buy Google, which had just become profitable thanks to auctioning search keywords to advertisers. They said they wanted $1 billion. The three met again, and Semel said he agreed to the price. Page and Brin changed their demand to $3 billion, which was too much for Yahoo! in the days after the dot-com bubble burst.

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“Soon to be much bigger” indeed.


In 2002, to fight the monster it helped creating, Yahoo! bought Inktomi, which had provided Yahoo! search results between 1998 and 2000. The following year, Yahoo! purchased Overture Services, which was in a legal dispute with Google as it had apparently patented the keyword auctioning system Google was using (and making tons of money from).

In 2004, Google committed to issue 2.7 million shares to Yahoo!, with each reaching the $100 mark on the day Google went public. Yahoo! had all of the ingredients to fight Google, but combining them took Yahoo! several years, and Google became synonymous with search advertising.

Yahoo!’s reaction to Gmail, launched that same year, was faster: the company acquired Oddpost, which was the first to incorporate into a web client desktop app features such as a drag-and-drop interface and a right-click menu that’s different from the browser’s. The new features may have helped Yahoo! Mail retain its user base and remain the most popular email client for a few more years with about 250 million users.

In 2005, the buzz-phrase was “Web 2.0,” with sites that make it easy for users to share different types of media. Yahoo! prepared for the new era in two ways: first, it purchased Flickr, the world’s most popular image sharing site, for about $25 million. Yahoo! used its resources to let Flickr users upload more images of higher quality, and the site was growing exponentially.

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The company also launched the Yahoo! 360 social network. When Facebook was only available for college students, 360 was the more mature alternative to MySpace, which could be seen as a spiritual successor to the original and social GeoCities.

Yahoo! 360 had interesting features such as different “groups” of friends for selective sharing, and “blasts,” which were basically text-only versions of today’s video stories. The service was held back by bugs that were never fixed, again calling into question the technical capability of Yahoo!’s manpower. Once Facebook became available for everyone, 360 started losing users, and it was shut down without ever leaving the open beta stage.


The company’s most influential purchase in 2005 wasn’t a product at all: Yahoo! invested $1 billion in then-private Chinese e-commerce group Alibaba for 40% of the company. Yahoo!’s confidence in Alibaba prevented a merger that could turn over the history of the internet a few years later.

In 2006, Yahoo! offered $1 billion for Facebook, but despite rumors of an unsuccessful negotiation, CEO Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t even consider the offer. A company that Yahoo! could have bought for a similar price was YouTube, but Google beat Yahoo! to it for $1.65 billion.

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By 2007, Yahoo!’s most innovative service was arguably Yahoo! Messenger, which received a web version with an online conversation archive and peaked at 94 million users. That year, Semel left his position and was replaced by company co-founder Jerry Yang.

Yahoo Over the Years


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An Offer You Shouldn’t Refuse

In early 2008, Yahoo! announced plans to cut 1,000 jobs, or 7% of its workforce. Then, Microsoft offered to buy Yahoo! for $44.6 billion in cash and stock combined, or 62% more than Yahoo!’s market value. Investors were confident that the deal would materialize, as Yahoo!’s stock immediately rose to almost as much as Microsoft was willing to pay for it.

Conversely, the Microsoft stock dropped about 10% after the offer, which Yahoo! actually listed as a reason in the letter rejecting the bid, which Yahoo! said “substantially undervalues” the company. In response to the letter, Microsoft improved its offer to $47.5 billion, or $33 per Yahoo! share upon the original $31. Yahoo! demanded $37 per share, and Microsoft withdrew from negotiations.


Aided by the global recession, Yahoo! finished the year valued at less than $12 per share, and firing 1,500 more workers. Yang was replaced by Carol Bartz, who had served as the CEO of software company Autodesk for 14 years. The new CEO repaired Yahoo!’s relationship with Microsoft, singing a deal to use the new Bing search engine on Yahoo! in exchange for ad sales management.

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Carol Bartz with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

The layoffs and CEO replacements may have been the reason that Yahoo! only launched iPhone apps for its most compelling services in 2009. The Flickr app was an insult, dropping some of the web version’s best features and offering no real advantage over the Facebook app, which had existed for over a year. With phones becoming a dominant platform, Flickr usage stagnated.

The Yahoo! Messenger app was much better received, in part thanks to its competitors taking even longer to launch. Once again, technical issues hurt the popularity of a Yahoo! product, this time the SPIM (spam + instant messaging) that the popular app suffered from. Once WhatsApp became a messenger, Y!M fell out of favor.

Bartz was fired in late 2011 amid continued falling revenue. In early 2012, PayPal president Scott Thompson was hired as the new CEO, and announced a plan to reorganize the company, cutting 2,000 jobs, or 14% of the workers. Months after his appointment, it was discovered that he lied about having a degree in computer science. He left the company days later.

What the Past Should Have Been

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Marissa Mayer.


Upon Thompson leaving, Yahoo! agreed to sell back half of its Alibaba stake for $800 million in stock and $6.3 billion in cash ($4.3 billion after tax). The new CEO, Marissa Mayer, chose to return $3 billion of the cash to shareholders. Mayer had never headed a company, but had filled various positions at Google since joining the startup in 1999.

One of the first things Yahoo! did in the Mayer era was launch a new Flickr app. It offered the best features of the Flickr website, and utilized the touchscreen controls for horizontal scrolling. Combined with a free 1TB storage plan in early 2013, Flickr usage peaked, but quickly hit a glass ceiling as the masses were already on Instagram.

Yahoo!’s desktop site was also redesigned in 2013, with a new color scheme and infinite scrolling for news. In July of that year, Yahoo!’s desktop sites had more visitors in the U.S. than Google’s desktop sites for the first time in more than two years.

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Mayer is remembered for missing Yahoo!’s final chance to become a market leader: 14 years after the fiasco, Yahoo! chose not to buy Netflix for $4 billion, again ignoring the number of people around the world with devices capable of streaming high-quality video. Today, Netflix is worth about $170 billion.

Instead, Yahoo! spent $1.1 billion in cash on Tumblr, which was basically what GeoCities should have become a decade before: a social network with blog-like profile customization features. By 2016, Yahoo! wrote down more than $700 million of Tumblr’s value as advertising goals weren’t met.

Another controversy in the Mayer era was her HR management: first, she completely banned working from home. Then, apparently to disguise massive layoffs, she made managers rank their workers on a bell curve, making it possible to fire hundreds of workers based on no objective data regarding their performance.


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Yahoo! headquarters in Sunnyvale, California.

In 2014, Yahoo! sold another portion of its Alibaba stake for $9.4 billion, or $6.3 billion after tax. At that point it started to become apparent that Yahoo!’s actual business was worth less than the taxes it would need to pay for selling that remaining Alibaba stake.

In 2016, Yahoo! fired 1,700 more workers, or 15% of its staff, and indicated it was looking for a buyer. Verizon agreed to buy the company’s web business for $4.83 billion. Not long after, it was revealed that Yahoo! was victim to two of the largest data breaches in history in 2013 and 2014, affecting at least 1 billion user accounts.

The following year, Verizon agreed to buy Yahoo!’s web services for $4.48 billion and share the liabilities resulting from the breaches. Later, it was discovered that all 3 billion Yahoo! accounts created over the years had been affected by the data breach. Yahoo! Inc. changed its name to Altaba, and by 2019 sold its remaining stake in Alibaba, as well as Yahoo! Japan and Snap Inc.

This is the story of Yahoo!: a company that more often than not failed to see what the future was holding, hire the right employees and sign the right deals. The Yahoo! news website and Yahoo! Mail still exist, but the company that named them is gone.

A New Yahoo!?

In 2021, after selling off Flickr and Tumblr, Verizon sold 90% of the company made of Yahoo! and AOL, another fallen Web 1.0 giant, to equity firm Apollo Global Management, for about $5 billion. Apollo renamed the company Yahoo!


In recent years, Facebook owner Meta has been criticized for its failure to innovate. While being a much bigger company than Yahoo! ever was, and shifting from purchasing companies like WhatsApp, Oculus VR, and Instagram into internal development, some similarities to Yahoo! have begun to emerge.

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Illustration by Bastian Riccardi

Meta has placed many of its bets on unproven concepts, famously with the virtual Metaverse but also in cryptocurrency with Libra/Diem. On the other hand, it tried to enter saturated markets with X (Twitter) competitor Threads, and previously with TikTok alternative Lasso. One can only guess whether the coming decade will make Meta the new Yahoo!

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy



Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

LAHORE, Pakistan — A court in Pakistan granted bail to a Christian falsely charged with blasphemy, but he and his family have separated and gone into hiding amid threats to their lives, sources said.

Haroon Shahzad (right) with attorney Aneeqa Maria. | The Voice Society/Morning Star News

Haroon Shahzad, 45, was released from Sargodha District Jail on Nov. 15, said his attorney, Aneeqa Maria. Shahzad was charged with blasphemy on June 30 after posting Bible verses on Facebook that infuriated Muslims, causing dozens of Christian families in Chak 49 Shumaali, near Sargodha in Punjab Province, to flee their homes.

Lahore High Court Judge Ali Baqir Najfi granted bail on Nov. 6, but the decision and his release on Nov. 15 were not made public until now due to security fears for his life, Maria said.

Shahzad told Morning Star News by telephone from an undisclosed location that the false accusation has changed his family’s lives forever.

“My family has been on the run from the time I was implicated in this false charge and arrested by the police under mob pressure,” Shahzad told Morning Star News. “My eldest daughter had just started her second year in college, but it’s been more than four months now that she hasn’t been able to return to her institution. My other children are also unable to resume their education as my family is compelled to change their location after 15-20 days as a security precaution.”


Though he was not tortured during incarceration, he said, the pain of being away from his family and thinking about their well-being and safety gave him countless sleepless nights.

“All of this is due to the fact that the complainant, Imran Ladhar, has widely shared my photo on social media and declared me liable for death for alleged blasphemy,” he said in a choked voice. “As soon as Ladhar heard about my bail, he and his accomplices started gathering people in the village and incited them against me and my family. He’s trying his best to ensure that we are never able to go back to the village.”

Shahzad has met with his family only once since his release on bail, and they are unable to return to their village in the foreseeable future, he said.

“We are not together,” he told Morning Star News. “They are living at a relative’s house while I’m taking refuge elsewhere. I don’t know when this agonizing situation will come to an end.”

The Christian said the complainant, said to be a member of Islamist extremist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and also allegedly connected with banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, filed the charge because of a grudge. Shahzad said he and his family had obtained valuable government land and allotted it for construction of a church building, and Ladhar and others had filed multiple cases against the allotment and lost all of them after a four-year legal battle.

“Another probable reason for Ladhar’s jealousy could be that we were financially better off than most Christian families of the village,” he said. “I was running a successful paint business in Sargodha city, but that too has shut down due to this case.”


Regarding the social media post, Shahzad said he had no intention of hurting Muslim sentiments by sharing the biblical verse on his Facebook page.

“I posted the verse a week before Eid Al Adha [Feast of the Sacrifice] but I had no idea that it would be used to target me and my family,” he said. “In fact, when I came to know that Ladhar was provoking the villagers against me, I deleted the post and decided to meet the village elders to explain my position.”

The village elders were already influenced by Ladhar and refused to listen to him, Shahzad said.

“I was left with no option but to flee the village when I heard that Ladhar was amassing a mob to attack me,” he said.

Shahzad pleaded with government authorities for justice, saying he should not be punished for sharing a verse from the Bible that in no way constituted blasphemy.

Similar to other cases


Shahzad’s attorney, Maria, told Morning Star News that events in Shahzad’s case were similar to other blasphemy cases filed against Christians.

“Defective investigation, mala fide on the part of the police and complainant, violent protests against the accused persons and threats to them and their families, forcing their displacement from their ancestral areas, have become hallmarks of all blasphemy allegations in Pakistan,” said Maria, head of The Voice Society, a Christian paralegal organization.

She said that the case filed against Shahzad was gross violation of Section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which states that police cannot register a case under the Section 295-A blasphemy statute against a private citizen without the approval of the provincial government or federal agencies.

Maria added that Shahzad and his family have continued to suffer even though there was no evidence of blasphemy.

“The social stigma attached with a blasphemy accusation will likely have a long-lasting impact on their lives, whereas his accuser, Imran Ladhar, would not have to face any consequence of his false accusation,” she said.

The judge who granted bail noted that Shahzad was charged with blasphemy under Section 295-A, which is a non-cognizable offense, and Section 298, which is bailable. The judge also noted that police had not submitted the forensic report of Shahzad’s cell phone and said evidence was required to prove that the social media was blasphemous, according to Maria.


Bail was set at 100,000 Pakistani rupees (US $350) and two personal sureties, and the judge ordered police to further investigate, she said.

Shahzad, a paint contractor, on June 29 posted on his Facebook page 1 Cor. 10:18-21 regarding food sacrificed to idols, as Muslims were beginning the four-day festival of Eid al-Adha, which involves slaughtering an animal and sharing the meat.

A Muslim villager took a screenshot of the post, sent it to local social media groups and accused Shahzad of likening Muslims to pagans and disrespecting the Abrahamic tradition of animal sacrifice.

Though Shahzad made no comment in the post, inflammatory or otherwise, the situation became tense after Friday prayers when announcements were made from mosque loudspeakers telling people to gather for a protest, family sources previously told Morning Star News.

Fearing violence as mobs grew in the village, most Christian families fled their homes, leaving everything behind.

In a bid to restore order, the police registered a case against Shahzad under Sections 295-A and 298. Section 295-A relates to “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” and is punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years and fine, or both. Section 298 prescribes up to one year in prison and a fine, or both, for hurting religious sentiments.


Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, up from eighth the previous year.

Morning Star News is the only independent news service focusing exclusively on the persecution of Christians. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide complete, reliable, even-handed news in order to empower those in the free world to help persecuted Christians, and to encourage persecuted Christians by informing them that they are not alone in their suffering.

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What went wrong with ‘the Metaverse’? An insider’s postmortem



What went wrong with 'the Metaverse'? An insider's postmortem

It’s now two years since Facebook changed its name to Meta, ushering in a brief but blazing enthusiasm over “the Metaverse”, a concept from science fiction that suddenly seemed to be the next inevitable leap in technology. For most people in tech, however, the term has since lost its luster, seemingly supplanted by any product with “artificial intelligence” attached to its description. 

But the true story of the Metaverse’s rise and fall in public awareness is much more complicated and interesting than simply being the short life cycle of a buzzword — it also reflects a collective failure of both imagination and understanding.  


The forgotten novel

Ironically, many tech reporters discounted or even ignored the profound influence of Snow Crash on actual working technologists. The founders of Roblox and Epic (creator of Fortnite) among many other developers were directly inspired by the novel. Despite that, Neal Stephenson’s classic cyberpunk tale has often been depicted as if it were an obscure dystopian tome which merely coined the term. As opposed to what it actually did: describe the concept with a biblical specificity that thousands of developers have referenced in their virtual world projects — many of which have already become extremely popular.



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Snow Crash.

You can see this lack of clarity in many of the mass tech headlines attempting to describe the Metaverse in the wake of Facebook’s name change: 

In a widely shared “obituary” to the Metaverse, Business Insider’s Ed Zitron even compounded the confusion still further by inexplicably misattributing the concept to TRON, the original Disney movie from the 80s.

Had the media referenced Snow Crash far more accurately when the buzz began, they’d come away with a much better understanding of why so many technologists are excited by the Metaverse concept — and realize its early incarnation is already gaining strong user traction.  

Because in the book, the Metaverse is a vast, immersive virtual world that’s simultaneously accessible by millions of people through highly customizable avatars and powerful experience creation tools that are integrated with the offline world through its virtual economy and external technology. In other words, it’s more or less like Roblox and Fortnite — platforms with many tens of millions of active users. 


But then again, the tech media can’t be fully blamed for following Mark Zuckerberg’s lead.

Rather than create a vision for its Metaverse iterating on already successful platforms — Roblox’s 2020 IPO filing even describes itself as the metaverse — Meta’s executive leadership cobbled together a mishmash of disparate products. Most of which, such as remotely working in VR headsets, remain far from proven. According to an internal Blind survey, a majority of Zuckerberg’s own employees say he has not adequately explained what he means by the Metaverse even to them.

Grievous of all, Zuckerberg and his CTO Andrew Bosworth promoted a conception of the Metaverse in which the Quest headset was central. To do so, they had to overlook compelling evidence — raised by senior Microsoft researcher danah boyd at the time of the company acquiring Oculus in 2014 — that females have a high propensity to get nauseous using VR.

Meta Quest 3 comes out on October 10 for $500.
Meta Quest 3.

Contacted in late 2022 while writing Making a Metaverse That Matters, danah told me no one at Oculus or Meta followed up with her about the research questions she raised. Over the years, I have asked several senior Meta staffers (past and present) about this and have yet to receive an adequate reply. Unsurprisingly, Meta’s Quest 2 VR headset has an estimated install base of only about 20 million units, significantly smaller than the customer count of leading video game consoles. A product that tends to make half the population puke is not exactly destined for the mass market — let alone a reliable base for building the Metaverse. 

Ironically, Neal Stephenson himself has frequently insisted that virtual reality is absolutely not a prerequisite for the Metaverse, since flat screens display immersive virtual worlds just fine. But here again, the tech media instead ratified Meta’s flawed VR-centric vision by constantly illustrating articles about the Metaverse with photos of people happily donning headsets to access it — inadvertently setting up a straw man destined to soon go ablaze.

Duct-taped to yet another buzzword

Further sealing the Metaverse hype wave’s fate, it crested around the same time that Web3 and crypto were still enjoying their own euphoria period. This inevitably spawned the “cryptoverse” with platforms like Decentraland and The Sandbox. When the crypto crash came, it was easy to assume the Metaverse was also part of that fall.


But the cryptoverse platforms failed in the same way that other crypto schemes have gone awry: By offering a virtual world as a speculative opportunity, it primarily attracted crypto speculators, not virtual world enthusiasts. By October of 2022, Decentraland was only tracking 7,000 daily active users, game industry analyst Lars Doucet informed me

“Everybody who is still playing is basically just playing poker,” as Lars put it. “This seems to be a kind of recurring trend in dead-end crypto projects. Kind of an eerie rhyme with left-behind American cities where drugs come in and anyone who is left is strung out at a slot machine parlor or liquor store.”

All this occurred as the rise of generative AI birthed another, shinier buzzword — one that people not well-versed in immersive virtual worlds could better understand.

But as “the Metaverse” receded as a hype totem, a hilarious thing happened: Actual metaverse platforms continued growing. Roblox now counts over 300 million monthly active users, making its population nearly the size of the entire United States; Fortnite had its best usage day in 6 years. Meta continues plodding along but seems to finally be learning from its mistakes — for instance, launching a mobile version of its metaverse platform Horizon Worlds.  

Roblox leads the rise of user-generated content.

Into this mix, a new wave of metaverse platforms is preparing to launch, refreshingly led by seasoned, successful game developers: Raph Koster with Playable Worlds, Jenova Chen with his early, successful forays into metaverse experiences, and Everywhere, a metaverse platform lead developed by a veteran of the Grand Theft Auto franchise.

At some point, everyone in tech who co-signed the “death” of the Metaverse may notice this sustained growth. By then however, the term may no longer require much usage, just as the term “information superhighway” fell away as broadband Internet went mainstream.  

Wagner James Au is author of Making a Metaverse That Matters: From Snow Crash & Second Life to A Virtual World Worth Fighting For 


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