Bartz Is Wrong, Yahoo Really Was A "Search Company"

By denying its history, Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz is trying make her company's purple past suit her own purposes and cover for its failing to become what Google is today.

Yahoo may not be a search company now, but Bartz or no, the search for Internet content is how the company got its start. Yahoo just failed to capitalize on it.

"We have never been a search company," Bartz told the New York Times. "It is, 'I am on Yahoo. I am going to do a search.'"

Bartz may be able to claim a measure of technical correctness, if only because when Yahoo was founded in 1994 the Internet search engine didn't yet exist. But, in its time, Yahoo was how people discovered new things on the rapidly expanding World Wide Web.

And if Yahoo isn't a search engine today, it's not for a lack of trying. The company had invested billions in search technology before the recent deal that made Microsoft's Bing its search partner.

Founded as "David and Jerry's Guide to the World Wide Web" and created by then-Stanford students David Filo and Jerry Yang, the site was quickly renamed Yahoo as an acronym for "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle."

As the Internet grew, so did Yahoo's database of Web sites, forcing the fledgling company to leave Stanford's network and partner with Netscape for a time.

Sadly, Yahoo eventually lost its way in the search business and missed becoming either Alta Vista or Google, which sequentially replaced Yahoo as the hot place to find new places to visit online. Google still has that role.

Yahoo instead became a portal, competing with AOL in a business that has been made increasingly irrelevant by the rise of, you guessed it, the search engine. Yahoo used to help people find content. Now, Yahoo repackages other people's content as well as creating some of its own. As a portal, Yahoo isn't an especially good one, as I've said, "Yahoo is over."

Bartz rightly points out that today people on Yahoo use search to find out more about things they discovered on Yahoo. Nevertheless, by saying Yahoo was never a "search company" she is simply rewriting the company's founding to cover its most important failure.

Yahoo should have become Google, except the portal business looked more attractive at the time.

Industry veteran David Coursey tweets as @techinciter and can be contacted via his Web site.

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