Lesson 2   An Introduction to Yahoo!

A Bit of History

       Like many other aspects of the computer age, Yahoo! began as an idea, grew into a hobby and lately has turned into a full-time passion. The two developers of Yahoo!, David Filo and Jerry Yang, Ph.D. candidates in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, started their guide in April 1994 as a way to keep track of their personal interests on the Internet. Before long they found that their home-brewed lists were becoming too long and unwieldy. Gradually they began to spend more and more time on Yahoo!.

       During 1994, they converted Yahoo! into a customized database designed to serve the needs of the thousands of users that began to use the service through the closely bound Internet community. They developed customized software to help them efficiently locate, identify and edit material stored on the Internet. The name Yahoo! is supposed to stand for "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle" but Filo and Yang insist they selected the name because they considered themselves "yahoos". Yahoo! itself first resided on Yang's student workstation, "akebono" while the search engine was lodged on Filo's computer, "konishiki." (These machines were named after legendary Hawaiian sumo wrestlers.)

       Yahoo moved away from Stanford in 1995 and has since evolved into a global Internet media company that serves millions of users daily. They have developed strategic partnerships with many large companies including AT&T, Ticketmaster, MCI, Microsoft, Gateway 2000 and Compaq.

Taking a Peek at Yahoo!

       Yahoo's web address is: http://www.yahoo.com    Take just a minute to go to the site and get an overview of Yahoo!'s front page. It will work best if you open this in a new browser window so that you can toggle back and forth between the tutorial and Yahoo! (hint: PC users - use the right click function on the link above; Mac users - hold the mouse pointer down for a few seconds on the link above). If you do not remember how to do this, go to the short tutorial on Using Two Browser Windows. After previewing Yahoo's front page, return to this tutorial and continue reading.

       If you scroll part way down the Yahoo! home page, you will note that Yahoo! is organized into a directory of categories. Yahoo! is not a true "search engine", but rather, a Subject Directory that happens to be searchable. Believe it or not, this distinction is important when looking for information on the World Wide Web. Subject Directories are made up of general or subject-specific lists compiled by a human being and are, therefore, limited by human updating as sites have to be manually put into categories. Yahoo! is both browseable and searchable, however, its searching is limited to titles, URL's, and brief descriptions within its own index. Yahoo! does not perform a full text search and only a small portion of the web is catalogued here.

       However, Yahoo! is probably the most popular hierarchical subject directory, therefore, it is a good starting point. You can search (browse) by subject, or like other search tools, you can specify a search term. Yahoo! works well if you are searching for general information on a subject, but because of the way information is indexed in Yahoo! (only represents a small portion of the web and is manually updated), you probably won't get great results if you're looking for something very specific or very recent.

Next: Lesson 3 - Yahoo Browsing - Basics
Previous: Lesson 1 - Introduction to Searching
SCILnet Home
Course Outline
Searching the Web - Basics
Module Directory
SCILnet Trainers