Posted by: h4ck@lyst | February 2, 2008

Everything on the internet has surprised me.


Yin and Yang: How Jerry lost the way

Charles Assisi | TNN

When Microsoft eventually acquires Yahoo and the dust generated by $44.6 billion settles down, only one emotion will remain—the empty feeling that persists when there is a hole in the heart. To imagine what that emptiness will be like, it is important to go back a few years to July 2000.
That was when Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo, first visited India to launch the desi version of what was then, inarguably, the world’s most popular portal. There was something hopelessly nice about him. And he seemed like a regular guy.
Sometime during a conversation, he put his arms around this writer’s shoulder and asked: “Do you think you can introduce me to a few pretty women at the party this evening?’’
It wasn’t needed. At the par
ty, a few thousand of the city’s movers and shakers thronged the Ballroom of the Taj Mahal Hotel in South Mumbai and the women were hysterical.
As for the men, when they weren’t busy trying to elbow the women out to shake his hand, they crowded around his pretty sister. There was good reason. At 31 then, Yang was a already a billionaire seven times over. But more importantly, because Yang and his partner David Filo were representatives of a new world and a new economy.
So much so that when the celebrated technology writer Po Bronson went looking for an image to define Silicon Valley, he finally settled on Filo under a desk in a sleeping bag at Yahoo’s makeshift office. Bronson later explained that every big city in the world has an architectural landmark that identifies it. Silicon Valley didn’t have any—until Bronson saw the sleeping Filo,
exhausted by the hours of work he had put with Yang at working on Yahoo.
The success they achieved on the back of a seemingly simple idea—creating a directory of all things on the internet—spawned a world of other possibilities.
Like taking on Microsoft—the big daddy of technology. Back then, Microsoft had a
vice-like grip on technology and there was nobody on the horizon to challenge how that technology could evolve.
Yahoo’s emergence and the promise it held to break that grip was perhaps the first serious challenge of any consequence to Microsoft.
Much water has passed under the bridge since then. Google emerged. Yahoo’s par
ties in Mumbai started to lose the sizzle and fervour of the early years. Yang and Filo gave way to professional CEOs like Terry Semel (who resigned from the board of Yahoo! earlier this week).
Eventually, Microsoft and Yahoo, hurt badly by the inroads Google had made into the internet, started to court each other. The outcome of the courtship will be decided a few days from now if the new comer gives in to the giants overtures. When it does, it will leave a gap—of what could have been. Only Yang wouldn’t be surprised. In response to a question that day in July 2000, Yang said: “It’s a joke inside Yahoo that Jerry is wrong most of the times. I underestimated the number of users, I underestimated the speed at which connectivity has increased around the world….and so I stopped trying to be predictive….Everything on the internet has surprised me.’’


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