Feature Article

September 23, 2016

What a bunch of Yahoooooos!

What a bunch of Yahoo!s.

There are so many things wrong with this story, that I don’t know where to start.

Definition: Yahoo

1. (in Swift's Gulliver's Travels) one of a race of brutes, having the form and all the vices of humans, who are subject to the Houyhnhnms.

2.(lowercase) an uncultivated or boorish person; lout; philistine; yokel.

3.(lowercase) a coarse or brutish person.

Background from Wikipedia.

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 directory of other websites, 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!" The "yahoo.com" domain was created 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." Filo's college girlfriend often referred to Filo as a "yahoo." This meaning derives from the Yahoo race of fictional beings from Gulliver's Travels.

And now twenty-two years later…

4. A company that is so far removed from its heritage that its management cannot hide its incompetence and cannot be trusted.

For many of my readers, we remember the origins of Yahoo! and its competition with AOL for messaging services. Geoff Ralston and Brad Garlinghouse would come and speak at our events and these messaging and group services were precursors to today’s social networks.

Like with AOL, many features that were available on Yahoo! have become passé, but have not been replicated by Facebook or Linkedin. That has kept a group of people loyal. There are, of course, also people like me, who know we still have an account, but, like a dead relative’s Facebook page, it lives beyond my use.

Independent of the assets of users, the relationship to Softbank, and Alibaba has been keeping the company afloat with interest. Given the recent revelations of the 500 million hacked accounts, it’s clear that through neglect or willful malfeasance Yahoo! has to be reevaluated.

My father taught me Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. Given the number of generations of management at Yahoo! and the constant chaos at the board level, I can still believe this is incompetence.

However, this incompetence had better move out of the way in order for renewed due diligence to be applied. If that’s not happening, Verizon should walk away and save itself the pain.

With that said, If Yahoo moves out of the way and lets Verizon show it’s abilities to attack a problem, Verizon could clean up this mess, and it should do so very publicly.

All it has to do is remove the Yahoos!




Edited by Ken Briodagh


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