Today’s news of the post-acquisition Yahoo being called Altaba made me think of the Yahoo I have known (and for a while loved) for the last 20+ years.
While AOL may have been America’s portal, Yahoo was ours in India. I was a happy enough Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Groups and Yahoo News user but what I was really addicted to was Yahoo Chat and Yahoo Messenger. Yahoo Chat was fantastic. The basic functionality was yahgood enough but I got really addicted to their IMvironments: mini flash-based experiences that you could play in while chatting.
I spent hours on it in different chat rooms and even made 2 of my closest friends on a Yahoo India chat room. The first of those friends was a girl from Romania named Anca. We talked a lot about our individual countries and that made me fairly knowledgable about Romania, a country I never really thought of otherwise. When I went to grad school at Rutgers, I ended up sitting next to a very quiet guy during one of the international student orientation sessions. He opened up when he mentioned he was from Romania and we could connect on that. That guy, Nicu, ended up being my best friend in grad school and is single-handedly responsible for me not dropping out of grad school when I struggled with writing code (I had never written code before having majored in Electronics in undergrad) and suddenly doing graduate level and research level C++ programming put me way out of my depth. Nicu, who had by then worked for a couple of years as a Software Engineer in Germany sat with me for HOURS teaching me programming concepts and helping me with my assignments.
So in a way I might owe Yahoo for my entire career 😉
As I became a web developer, Yahoo was one of the technology companies I envied. They were always building amazing pieces of technology. Some pieces of technology I was fascinated by and worked with included:
- YUI which was THE user interface library for web experiences,
- YSlow which I used a LOT when I was developing web apps
- Yahoo Widgets, which was the Konfabulator app that Yahoo bought, that I wrote a couple of widgets for
- BrowserPlus, which apparently I was a fan of at some point (Who remembers?!)
- YQL, a query language that mapped web apis like SQL queries.
In fact, I even went to a Yahoo Hack Day in NY a while back and my friend Gabo and I ended up building an AIR app for YQL queries (we didn’t win though 😦 )
This list doesn’t include other amazing tech that came out of Yahoo like Hadoop etc that I never interacted with.
I also interacted with Yahoo a fair bit professionally, when Comcast and Yahoo struck an ad deal in 2007 and I was responsible for integrating their video ad system (that didn’t exist) into The Fan video player that I was leading the development for. It was also one of my favorite engineering stories to tell but that is a story for another time 😉
Thanks for the memories Yahoo.