Yahoo! Inc. is a company offering a wide range of Internet services, including news, e-mail, Web hosting, shopping, and search. Yahoo! also has foreign-language sites aimed at markets in the United States and 65 other countries.
The history of Yahoo! is the history of the commercial Internet in microcosm. Yahoo! began as the project of two Stanford University graduate students, Jerry Yang and David Filo, in 1994. Originally, it was no more than a list of links to favorite Web sites: “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web.” The list was divided into categories and eventually renamed Yahoo!; the etymology of the name has been variously given as an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle,” “Yet Another Hierarchically Organized Outline,” and more simply as a term, originally derived from Gulliver’s Travels, meaning a person who is uncouth and unsophisticated. This meaning is carried over into the name of Yahoo’s children’s site, Yahooligans.
The lists maintained by Filo and Yang began to attract first hundreds, then thousands of users; at the time, in 1994, the Internet was still used mostly by a relatively small number of technically sophisticated users; its transformation to a universal medium of communication had not yet taken place. Yahoo’s popularity grew by word of mouth, and by fall of 1994, the site was attracting over a hundred thousand unique visitors a day. Filo and Yang incorporated Yahoo! and raised about two million dollars from high-tech venture capital firm Sequoia Capital. The introduction of venture capitalists marked the transformation of Yahoo! from grad student hobby to serious business; the company hired professional managers and began to prepare for an initial public offering (IPO) of stock. At the time the IPO actually took place, on April 12, 1996, Yahoo! had 49 employees; its IPO raised about $34 million (History of Yahoo! 2005).