Let's talk about the history of Yahoo! How was this search engine conceived?
Yahoo! was started I think late in 1994, by two founders, Jerry Yang and David
Filo, who originally began to collect websites that were being created on the web and then
organizing them by subject. They originally built software that created a kind of a
directory to the web. That was the start. Since then we have grown very aggressively from
the original directory to adding in text search, bringing in content from partnerships,
merchant services, communication features, such as web-based e-mail, chat, message boards,
things like that. We have grown from the original to what it is today, which is much more
Which are the real difficulties to face when working on the classification of large
amounts of information?
There are very many challenges associated with organizing information on a large scale. As
you know, on the web today there are many tens of millions of websites and this number is
growing very rapidly every day, every month. Organizing that for users so that the
information is what we call "intuitive" is a big challenge and it involves
editors making decisions about organizing it in a rational way and a lot of technology as
well, which we have written in the form of software, to be able to search across all this
information and present the results to the users.
What is the system that Yahoo! uses?
We use many systems. We have a subject hierarchy, which is the directory, so we have a
method for categorizing content by subject; that is an editorial method. We also have many
software technologies, we use to run Yahoo! and take in requests from users on a
world-wide basis and search across the information that we have in Yahoo! and then
present the results.
Do you share common parts of search engines with Netscape?
Our relationship with Netscape is mostly a distribution relationship. Netscape distributes
browsers, and when users use the Netscape browser, sometimes they go to the Netscape site.
And on the Netscape site Yahoo! is shown as a directory and search engine to be
Do you think that the different organization of information studied in particular for
younger surfers, for children, can be a good solution to the problem of pornography and
We have always believed that as we grow Yahoo! into a larger and more global
presence that it would be very natural for Yahoo! to create special versions of the
service to appeal to various segments of the population based on either geography or
culture, or specific age groups. There is a very large world-wide population of children
who are increasingly connected to the web and using it to find information. We have
created a special version of Yahoo! for children and it's called
"Yahooligans!". At the moment it is only for North America, but later we intend
to create other versions in other countries. We think there is a lot of value in creating
special versions for children not only for the kind of safety associated with pornography,
but also because children have specific interests. They like certain kinds of sports and
they like certain kinds of learning and they want to connect the web with things they're
learning in school. So bringing these things into one place specially for children not
only appeals to them as a group but also is probably a safer way of presenting
What do you think about the possibility of censoring the Internet?
Censorship on the Internet is a very interesting topic. We at Yahoo! feel very
strongly that the web should remain open and not censored. However, we are very careful
about organizing information so that it is very clear where certain types of information
are, so that the user will not make a mistake and see information that they don't want to
see. So we have an approach of allowing access to everything but also making it really
clear for the user where certain things are.
For individuals who decide to create a personal website, is it possible to use a part of
the source code of your search engine?
Right now we do not license our source code to individuals. Individuals who want
to create a personal homepage can do so in a number of different places and in a number of
different ways. There are companies like Geocities and Tripod and probably many here in
various parts of Europe that are forming to allow users to author personal homepages on
their site. Many individuals have created personal homepages and then submitted them to Yahoo!
to be included in Yahoo's directory, and that is what we do.
Are you planning to offer pay services?
We do not have any intention to create pay versions of Yahoo! at the moment. We put
information on-line for free. We use contracts with advertisers to finance our service,
but for the user it is completely free, and we intend to continue that way.
What is the role of advertising for Yahoo!?
In early 1995 we began the business of creating adverting sponsorships on Yahoo!
And since that time we've grown a lot. World-wide I think we probably now have just around
2000 advertising clients; that's grown really rapidly. There are all types of advertising
sponsors - consumer brands, technology companies - all of them are trying to reach a very
large audience now on Yahoo! in a really targeted way. They pay money to show their
advertisement on targeted sections of Yahoo! and by doing that they reach a very
large audience. In 1997, measured in dollar terms, if you took all of the world-wide
spending of advertising on the web and converted it into one currency, the dollar amount
of advertising on the web was about US$900 million. Very large. In 1996 the market was
about US$220 million. So you see the kind of growth that it has already gone through. Most
research companies that try to project the growth in advertising on the web project that
it will grow maybe to US$4 or US$5 billion by the year 2000.
Do you know what to expect from Europe, in particular from Italy?
We hope that the market will grow here very rapidly, as well. There's already a very large
and growing audience of users, and of course advertising is not new in Italy in
traditional media. We know the benefits of advertising on the web are very powerful for
advertisers. So we have been establishing versions of Yahoo! in various parts of
the world in the local language with a cultural feel as a way of inviting in audience and
we hope that it will be very large and grow very fast here.
How does the message change if the advertising is conceived for the Internet instead of
for a traditional medium?
The benefit for an advertiser for placing advertisement on the web is that there are many
things they can get that they cannot get through advertising in traditional media. Mostly,
for advertisers the web allows true measurement. When a user, an audience member, is
coming through the web and viewing pages, all of their viewing habits are immediately
measured, and additionally an advertiser can then also have a company like Yahoo!
place the ad electronically in a targeted way. So not only can you measure for once what
your audience really did, but also you can target them instantaneously. No medium in the
past has allowed that. Print media, as you know, is not measurable really directly, even
broadcast media is one way and is not directly measurable. So there's a lot of power in
advertising with this medium.
Do you think that search engines are doomed to die because of the large amount of
information that is increasing on the web?
We call this content aggregation, both search engine and directory. There are different
ways of collecting information and presenting it to the user. We think that this will not
go away. The nature of the web is that content and merchant services and the number of
websites are already quite large and growing quite rapidly. That only increases the need
that users have for something like a search engine. Because without one, you as an
individual user cannot find things that are relevant to you on this large group of growing
Will intelligent agents replace traditional search engines?
We don't think so. Firstly, the technology is not yet very well developed. Additionally,
we have found in watching our users on a world-wide basis how they consume information,
how they search for it, that most people in the world don't know what they're looking for
until they see it. Humans like to interact with the content as a way of seeing and finding
things. We think that most people will use intelligent agents for part of the time but
also then power their own search because it's much more intuitive for the user.
Do you think that in the future only thematic search engines will be able to survive on
Even now there are many functions that are collected in one place to allow users to find
information that is relevant to them. A thematic search engine is one approach and that is
the one that Yahoo! started with, which is collecting information based on
subjects, forming a directory. Additionally, though, full text search engine is another
function. In addition to that, bringing in summary stories and headline stories and data
from various content providers and putting that in one place is another function. So we
think that adding comprehensively a number of different functions on top of the original
thematic directory is the right way, and for the users it's very compelling.
How do you relate to the problem of personal privacy?
Personal privacy is a big issue for everyone in the world. Yahoo! tries to
protect everyone's privacy. Since we operate a server system where users can come in and
access our software for free, that information about what they are consuming we know, of
course, at Yahoo! but we never allow that information outside of Yahoo! We
do not sell it, we don't allow advertisers to see the detailed information on users, so we
protect people's privacy and so this is a very, very important issue. It will become even
a larger issue as people begin to buy things on-line and use perhaps their credit card. So
everyone is concerned about privacy; we take it very seriously at Yahoo! We protect
people's individual privacy to the maximum and we will continue to.