On the second-last day of the year 2014, CNN put out the headline: “Internet icon dies“. The headline on Google News grabbed my attention, as it was designed to do. I aked myself who?
Through my mind flitted names of various Internet icons: Tim Berners-Lee … Vint Cerf … Bob Kahn?
Steeling myself to face the heart rendering news, I clicked; and found to my great relief that it was only the Yahoo Directory: not a person, but a thing. Several hours later, the original headline was replaced by “Internet icon dies as Yahoo Directory goes dark “.
It’s not that I’m glad to see the Yahoo Directory gone. The Yahoo Directory was one of my great loves, and I will never forget her. She will always have a place in my heart; but she was taken away many years ago. This is not news, it is olds. I have grieved the loss of my old friend for a decade, or more.
In 1993, when the World Wide Web became available to ordinary mortals, it was a challenge to find relevant information. One would start their journey on a ‘Home Page’. It was usually the page of your University or place of work. You also had the option of creating your own ‘Home Page’ by learning the simple rules of HTML – Hypertext Markup Language. A few people did, and web pages began to proliferate.
The HTML protocol invented by Tim (now Sir Tim) Berners-Lee included a search function. One could create a document, and include a search box to search for specific information within it.
It was a quarter of a century ago when we were provided with the ability to create a digital document that could be searched for specific information, and be linked to other documents that readers could access with a simple click. It was the beginning of a revolution that would transform life as we know it.
In the beginning, there were documents that could be searched within themselves, that could in turn be linked to other documents that could be searched within themselves. Readers could read these documents and click to others, as surfers ride waves, going with the flow of information: and thus, the term ‘web surfing’ was born.
Jerry Yang and David Filo did web surfers a great service by taking the randomness out of web surfing by creating an organised directory of websites, that was both comprehensive, and user-driven. The Yahoo Directory, played a big part in making the World Wide Web a viable commercial channel, rather than just a useful tool for academics and researchers.
It was a simple idea. It utilized the existing HTML protocol and created a simple document that was searchable within itself. The document consisted of links to websites categorized and with simple descriptions.
It was this simplicity that created the first global go-to page for users of the World Wide Web.