Say Goodbye to the Original Yahoo Directory

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Say Goodbye to the Original Yahoo Directory

Yahoo has announced it will finally, officially shut down the Yahoo Directory on December 31, 2014.

No, we didn’t know the Yahoo Directory was still a thing either. For those of you not familiar with the world before Google, the Yahoo Directory is the product that made Yahoo a big deal in the first place. In the early days of the web, it was also one of the most important search and discovery engines.

The Yahoo Directory (which ironically, seems to be down because of the wave of interest surrounding the product) was a human-edited directory of websites, organized into various tiers. If you wanted to look for sites about video games, you would go to the Yahoo Directory, click on “Computers and Internet,” then “Games”, then “Video Games.”

If you followed those instructions in December 1996, and wanted to get more information on the Nintendo 64, here’s what you would see:

The Yahoo Directory listing circa December, 1996.--IMAGE: SCREENSHOT YAHOO.COM VIA THE ARCHIVE.ORG

The Yahoo Directory listing circa December, 1996.–IMAGE: SCREENSHOT YAHOO.COM VIA THE ARCHIVE.ORG


This all seems quaint now — but in the early days of the web, this personally-curated process was a big deal. It stood out among the randomness of early, inferior crawler-based search engines. Getting your website into the directory was equally huge.

In fact, until 2002, the Directory was still front-and-center on Yahoo’s homepage. Crawler-based search eventually overtook it — with a lot of help from Google’s algorithm — but there was something magical about the curation and discoverability baked into the Yahoo Directory.

Now, nearly 20 years after went live with the Yahoo Directory as the centerpiece of its web portal, this last vestige of old Yahoo is going away.

It may make sense for Yahoo to shutter Yahoo Directory — but the way it was done, in a brief mention on a blog post buried on a Friday afternoon, seems unbecoming of a product that helped shape what is now a multi-billion dollar corporation.

Over at Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan does a tremendous job giving Yahoo Directory the tribute that Yahoo itself should have provided. Sullivan also offers historical context for the importance of the directory — which as he aptly says, was “once the Internet’s most important search engine.”

As someone who built her first website in 1996, and was ecstatic when that website entered the Yahoo Directory, this news is more than a little bittersweet.

So while you’re surfing the web, or discovering links on Twitter or Facebook this weekend, pour one out for the Yahoo Directory.


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