Marissa Mayer Remembers A Time When Yahoo Was Not A Search Engine

Marissa Mayer

BuzzFeed found a video where Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s new CEO, was asked by NPR’s Laura Sydell to name all the search engines that were around in 1999 when she first joined Google.

She stumbled on one name: Yahoo. Hilarious!

Here’s Mayer’s answer:

AltaVista, Lycos, Infoseek, Dogpile, Ask Jeeves, GoTo, which eventually became Overture … oh, Yahoo! That’s embarrassing. Eventually Yahoo became Google—we started powering them.

Except that Mayer was right. Yahoo was NOT a search engine in 1999.

While forgotten names like Infoseek, Lycos, and Excite—that’s the one Mayer actually should have been embarrassed for leaving out—scrapped in the search-engine market, Yahoo built a killer information portal, launching vertical sites in news, sports, and finance—sites which remain stronghouses today.

Yahoo first licensed search results from AltaVista, then from a startup named Inktomi, and in 2000, from, yes, Google. Yahoo didn’t buy Inktomi until 2002. A year later, it bought Overture, Google’s only significant competitor in search advertising at the time. But Yahoo didn’t drop Google from its search results until 2004.

For years, Yahoo struggled to integrate its acquisitions and compete with Google and, soon enough, Microsoft. Microsoft tried to buy Yahoo, then, rebuffed, struck a deal to take over Yahoo’s search business in 2009.

The point: Mayer has known Yahoo for a long, long time, and she remembers a time when the company was a dominant force without having its own search engine. In fact, the era of Yahoo as a search player is really just five short years.

If anyone can restore Yahoo to that position, it’s Mayer.

Here’s the entire video:

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