The core assets of the company that started life in Jerry Yang and David Filo’s 1994 Stanford dorm room as “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web” — and at one point was one of the highest valued properties on the internet — will now join another former high-flyer of the internet’s earliest days, Aol (full disclosure: the owner of TechCrunch), in the Verizon stable.
It’s hard to overstate how dominant a player Yahoo once was. The company, which now holds most of its value in its Alibaba investment, was once a $125 billion behemoth that dominated internet search and commanded one of the highest valuations of any online business — it was Google before Google was Google.
Like Aol, Yahoo was never able to fully recover from the dot-com crash. The advent of Google (and then Facebook) pushed both early Internet portals further toward irrelevance as one Google’s search algorithm prevailed and Facebook a new method for browsing online — replacing monolithic portals with personalized feeds tailored to the tastes of social networking peers.
And in the age of mobile browsing and apps, the company’s relevance eroded even further.
Yahoo grew up with the early Internet and for a time it was the site for nearly everything. From an online directory, the site ballooned to include email providers (Four11), web hosting services (Geocities), and video and radio simulcasting through the $5.7 billion acquisition of Mark Cuban’s Broadcast.com.
Still, it looks like Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer will be able to enjoy a comfortable landing, whatever becomes of her after the Verizon deal.
The New York Times is speculating that she could receive a severance package worth about $57 million, after raking in cash and stock worth $218 million during her time at the top of the faltering giant.
The terms of the sale aren’t official, but The Times (among others) is reporting that the $41 billion worth of Alibaba shares that Yahoo holds will remain in the hands of its current shareholders (along with Yahoo Japan and some patents).