Its hard to imagine that just 20 years ago Peter Bowen, Managing Director at First One On Limited in Bristol won the Entrepreneur of the Year award for basically developing a website…! and in those early years the Yahoo Directory was born as a listing of websites that helped users explore the Internet. “It was was how we were able to connect businesses to each other and get consumers to search for what they were looking for” says Peter Bowen, “don’t forget the Yahoo Directory was pre-Google and was the only way to search and get real results”, “yes there were other search tools including Excite 1993, Lycos 1994, Infoseek 1994 and Web Crawler 1994″.
David Filo and Jerry Yang started Yahoo! in 1994. Originally it was a highly regarded directory of sites that were cataloged by human editors. This directory provided an extensive listing of websites supported by a network of regional directories.
Last September, Yahoo announced that it would retire the Yahoo Directory, its oldest service and the one that put the company on the map to begin with. In fact, the announcement for such a major product closure was quiet at best, as it came in the middle of a blog post announcing a handful of product shut downs.
In the post, Yahoo said, “Yahoo was started nearly 20 years ago . While we are still committed to connecting users with the information they’re passionate about, our business has evolved and at the end of 2014, we will retire the Yahoo Directory. Advertisers will be upgraded to a new service; more details to be communicated directly.”
The early demise of the Yahoo Directory probably isn’t going to have a huge impact on many people, but what that demise represents for the Internet is more significant. It represents the true end of an era (even if that era has unofficially been dead for years).
Back when the closure was announced, Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land noted that the Yahoo Directory was the “gateway” to the web back in the old days. This is a title often given to Google these days, and one that the search giant has been trying to distance itself from in light of the big antitrust investigation it has been facing in Europe.
In the beginning the Yahoo Directory offered a standard listing at no cost and a paid submission process before moving to a non-refundable “review fee” model. It would cost sites the same amount each year if they were to be listed. Google is actually a significant part of why paid directories have declined, so that might work against that aforementioned Google defence. Of course, Yahoo also recently killed its Contributor Network thanks to Google’s Panda update.
Yahoo made the jump from human-edited directory listings to a crawler-based index in 2002. In 2010, the company said it had no plans to close the directory, but a lot has happened since then, and a former Googler is running the show these days.
Directories have long been a major part of the Internet, even if that’s been less the case in more recent years. The closure of the most notable directory in the history of the modern web is indicative of a major shift.
Peter Bowen, Managing Director, First One On Limited