Remember When Yahoo Ruled the Internet?

It’s natural to feel a bit of regret when you miss a loved one’s birthday. Here at Gizmodo, we’re saying happy belated 30th birthday to Yahoo, the website that most of us haven’t logged into since we got real jobs after the Great Recession. Even though Yahoo is a shell of what it once was at the height of when webpages ruled supreme—no matter how many times it attempts to rebrand—those of us who grew up on the internet can’t deny the impact of its existence all that time ago.

Sadly, I wiped my Yahoo account off the face of the planet during the Great Data Breach of 2013. But I vividly remember my time on the website throughout the two decades it existed in my life. It’s a pity the younger generations will never be able to experience the best things about Yahoo firsthand.

Yahoo was born in January 1994 and incorporated the following year in March. It’s often regarded as one of the “pioneers” of the internet. It’s been defunct as the company you once knew it since 2017 when it was bought by Verizon.

Before Google’s Gmail had all our messages fed into its algorithms, Yahoo Mail managed our correspondence through the browser. The service launched in 1997, though I didn’t switch from Hotmail until 2001 when my family got DSL through AT&T. The company had us sign up for SBCGlobal email addresses to log in, which were a part of the Yahoo network.

I was one of the many who hosted their first website on GeoCities. The site launched in late 1994, but Yahoo didn’t acquire it until 1999. I used my account as a tertiary online storage space until Yahoo shut down the servers in 2009. But I was also a frazzled college student and didn’t think to back up what was on the account then. If you believe you might have a GeoCities site floating out there, there’s an archive available at GeoCities.ws where you can request access to your account.

Where would I be without Yahoo Messenger? Back in the day, if no one knew your screen name on AIM, they could at least find you through a Yahoo email address on Messenger. Yahoo Messenger was how I also kept in touch with my extended family far and wide around the world since it was a globally available service compared to America Online’s instant messaging suite.

Why were these so fun? It didn’t matter that you didn’t know the people on the other line. What mattered was that there was always someone there to play Yahoo Games, whether it was Chess, Checkers, or any other card game. Even Fantasy Football and arcade games cropped up later in the site’s offerings.

Yahoo Answers was the pit of hell. People asked bad questions, and then other people provided rotten answers. The website was an institution in its nearly 20-year tenure. There are even former Yahoo Answers junkies on Quora complaining about how much they miss the old forums. They were officially shut down in 2021, but there are ways to find the archives if you need to engage in something depraved.

I was excited to see the interactive Launch CD-ROM magazine make it into the Internet Archive. The publication debuted in the late 90s and promoted alternative music, movies, and TV shows. I can’t remember why we had an issue of Launch floating around the house—this one featuring Paula Cole—but I recall popping it into the family computer to see what it was about.

Yahoo eventually acquired the magazine as it approached troubled waters in 2001. The company eventually used that property to morph into Yahoo Music. 

Flickr, which Yahoo bought in 2005, was my favorite social network when I didn’t want to deal with people. It allowed you to post your photos and a story to accompany it. You could then tag it with location and relevant terminology. The site surfaced aperture and shutter speed to see what other people did to get their respective shots. At one point, I figured out how to use Flickr to post to my Livejournal via text message. I felt very cool being able to “micro-blog” from a feature phone before smartphones.

I did make the mistake of uploading my party photos to Flickr, making them available for all the world to see. But after that phase was over, Flickr served as a homepage for my attempts at photography. The site is still around, but it’s nothing like it was in its heyday.

I almost forgot Tumblr. I know a generation of “Zillennials” out there grew up on the blogging platform. I know Tumblr helped many adolescents discover themselves between 2008 and 2012, whether it was their aesthetic or sexuality. It’s too bad that a handful of shortsighted business decisions landed Tumblr where it is now: barely hanging on.

a photo of the yahoo sports logo

Image: Freebie Supply

I do not have any personal memories with Yahoo Sports, but I know it is one of the last enduring properties from the original purple logo days. And thus, it deserves its spot as the one thing you can still do with Yahoo.