Early Yahoo! Acquisitions (the 1990s)

I wanted to learn more about the history of Yahoo!, and made a post about Yahoo!’s Acquisitions Since Overture a week ago. I promised that I would followup with an additional post covering the remaining purchases.

I guess you should be careful about undertaking an inquiry like this.

The more I uncover, the more I find to write about.

Yahoo!’s earliest days saw them entering into partnerships and joint ventures with a number of companies.

At some point, Yahoo! started buying some of the companies that it worked with instead of working with those companies. There are a number of different reasons why, and some interesting stories behind some of those.

Time has obscured some of the information floating around on the web on some of these sales. The Wayback Machine, from the Internet Archive was helpful in uncovering some more on them.

Other information was gleaned from looking at corporate bios, resumes, financial statements, press releases, and from sites that have the good sense of maintaining archives of previous stories and pages on the web.

As I noted above, there’s more that I want to discover. Many of the partnerships that Yahoo! entered with other companies ended when those companies were purchased by other companies. I also didn’t finish my list of acquisitions.

I know that there are at least 15-20 more companies that Yahoo! purchased part or all of from 2000 through Autumn, 2003. I hopefully will finish up with those within the next week or so.

I’d bet that I missed some of the acquistions that Yahoo! made in the 1990s. If you know of any, and you come across this post, and you would like to share, please let me know. Here are the purchases I found some information about, and some related links and information about those companies.

Net Controls Corp.

Net Controls Corp. (July 1997) Their core product was integrated into Yahoo! as the Yahoo! News Ticker, and it worked outside of a normal browser. This is the first acquisition Yahoo! made, as noted in SEC filings from Yahoo!

Earlier press releases from Yahoo! describe a number of partnerships and joint ventures with other companies, but Net Controls Corp. does seems to be the first acquisition made by Yahoo! A few of those early partners were purchased by companies like Microsoft.

At the time, the push technology used in the news ticker seemed like it would be a killer application. Today’s RSS feeds and applications, like Yahoo! widgets, offer a similar promise, but considerably more flexibility.

Four11 Corporation

Four11 (October 1997) This company offered a very popular free email service called rocketmail, as well as a people and phone number search.

Yahoo! Press Release: Yahoo! to Acquire Four11 Corporation

Four11 is the creator of several directory services, including e-mail, phone and address listings, along with Internet-based communications services such as net-phone software tools and RocketMail, a free Web-based service.

In a separate announcement today, Yahoo! introduced Yahoo! Mail, a free, Web-based e-mail service based on RocketMail technology.

Classic Games

Classic Games (March 1998) – Mainstream games, such as backgammon, that people could play against each other online. Now at Yahoo! Games. Was also available under the URL Springerspan.com.

Viaweb

ViaWeb (June 1998) – Easy to use software and reporting tools for building and operating online commerce Web sites, which became Yahoo! Stores after the purchase.

Paul Graham was one of the founders of Viaweb, and he gives some insight into what made the software special enough for Yahoo! to notice in The Other Road Ahead.

An IBM Report from 1998, “Musings on Internet Portals …And how can IBM take a leadership role?” (no longer available), describes how Yahoo!’s presence as a portal is what made Yahoo! Stores both popular and effective.

A 1999 review from Sellitontheweb on raved about the features available from Yahoo! Stores.

WebCal Corporation

WebCal Corporation (July 1998) The WebCal Personal Edition Calendar became the Yahoo! Calendar

Yahoo! Press Release: Yahoo! Introduces Yahoo! Calendar

An Internet Archive page About WebCal, tells us a little about what the company was doing at the time of their purchase:

Among WebCal’s core technologies are tools for the dynamic aggregation, integration and distribution of events information.

WebCal has developed the Standard Event Entry and Distribution architecture (SEED), which makes it easy to parse event data into appropriate formats for distribution on and off the web.

The SEED architecture is used to create and maintain the EventCal database, currently the most comprehensive database of public events in the world.

Event organizers may enter and edit their events directly and securely to the EventCal database using any web browser on any computer anywhere in the world.

WebCal also uses its EventEngine webcrawler aggregate public events from the web. Off-line event entry software is also available at no charge to event organizers.

WebCal’s calendar software is web-based, and offers a number of features that differentiate it from standard PC-based calendaring packages. It is fully customizable so users may easily create their own look and feel for their calendar.

It allows for recurring events that are easily edit-able, and offers email reminders that can be set up for important events and meetings.

In addition to a free calendaring system that synched with handhelds of the time, WebCal also developed something they called EventEngine, which used a webcrawling technology to pull up public events from the Web.

Yoyodyne Entertainment, Inc.

Yoyodyne Entertainment, Inc. (October 1998) Purchased to beef up Yahoo!’s direct marketing efforts, and presumably to bring charismatic Yoyodyne founder Seth Godin to Yahoo!.

Yahoo! Press Release: Yahoo! to Acquire Yoyodyne

Since its launch in 1995, Yoyodyne has established itself as a premier interactive direct marketing company.

In addition to custom direct marketing programs, Yoyodyne’s services feature four recognized, branded programs, including EZSpree.com, an aggregator of name brand online shopping sites; GetRichClick.com, a traffic distribution site transforming traffic into targeted, unduplicated visitors to sponsoring sites; EZVenture.com, a promotion targeted at entrepreneurs and small businesses; and EZWheels.com, a site delivering qualified, motivated car buyers directly to car manufacturers

Wired Magazine ran a snippet about Yoyodyne that may put this purchase in context. Here’s part of it:

Part game-show junkie, part cyber salesman, Seth Godin of Yoyodyne Entertainment wants to create online programming to rival The Hollywood Squares and What’s My Line? And though the 36-year-old Godin doesn’t want to reproduce those TV classics – “they don’t lend themselves to having 100,000 contestants,” he says – he plans to use Yoyodyne’s email-based game system to become the Mark Goodson/Bill Todman of the Internet.

Fast Company has an April 1998 article on Permission Marketing that shows the energy and philosphy that Seth Godin would bring to Yahoo!

People love games. They’re fun, exciting, engaging.

We not only entertain people but also educate them – and we get paid for it! We create promotions in which the game itself involves information about products.

People search for ads and read them because they have to find missing pieces of information to get the prizes they want.

When’s the last time you searched for a TV commercial?

It’s not just about fun and games. But it does seem like Yahoo! wanted in on some of the fun.

Sportasy

Sportasy (December 1998) fantasy sports

This company’s name is misspelled in a few places I’ve seen it mentioned, including on the Yahoo Media FAQ, in a list of some of the companies Yahoo has acquired. That’s mostly understandable. There’s very little on the web about Sportasy.com.

In addition to the Internet Archive link above, I was able to track down the portfolio (link no longer available) of one of the folks who worked on launching Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball, which has a mention of the domain of the old site.

HyperParallel Inc.

HyperParallel Inc. (December 1998) A data mining and analysis company focusing on customer relationship marketing
Yahoo! Press Release: Yahoo! Reports Fourth Quarter and 1998 Fiscal Year End Financial Results

HyperParallel developed software for Fortune 500 companies to mine their data looking for insights that they might not glean otherwise.

A review of data mining tools from 1997 reveals a little about HyperParallel’s //Discovery suite.

Log-Me-On.com LLC

Log-Me-On.Com LLC (January 1999) Bookmark and email address manager, that let you store those remotely, so that you could access them from any computer.

A 1999 Financial Statement from Yahoo! noted that the acqusition of this company brought Yahoo!:

browser and toolbar technology that would allow users into Yahoo! sites without typing URLs or retrieving bookmarks, creation of the user interface, development of customization screens and procedures, and establishment of data links.

Co-founder and managing partner of the company, Rich Riley became the Vice President and General Manager of Yahoo! Small Business, overseeing corporate strategy and daily business operations there. That includes Yahoo! Web Hosting and Yahoo! Stores.

From the archived log-me-on.com “learn more” page:

Log-Me-On.com is a free Internet utility designed to make the Internet easier to use.

Log-Me-On.com members can store links to their favorite sites on the Internet and then access those sites from any computer.

Log-Me-On.com’s new EmailAnywhere service allows you to e-mail anyone from any computer.

Log-Me-On.com’s Auto-Log-On® software will automatically enter your username and password for you whenever you log onto a site that requires it. Membership is free.

Yahoo! Canada

Yahoo! Canada (March 1999)

The 1999 yearly financial statement (pdf) from Yahoo! notes that a February 1996 affiliation agreement between Yahoo! and Rogers Media Inc., licensed intellectual property and development rights to Rogers to enable them to operate Yahoo! Canada.

The agreement was terminated on March 1, 1999, and Yahoo! acquired the Yahoo! Canada business.

Geocities

GeoCities (May 1999) – Free personal home pages, and one of the most popular sites on the web.

Yahoo issued a number of press releases about their involvement with Geocities, maybe because so many people were affected:

Yahoo! Press Release: Yahoo! Makes Minority Equity Investment in GeoCities
Yahoo! Press Release: Yahoo! to Acquire Geocities
Yahoo! Press Release: Yahoo! Completes Geocities Acquisition; Announces Integration Plans
Yahoo! Press Release: Yahoo! Opens Yahoo! Geocities

Starseed, Inc. – via Geocities

Starseed, Inc. (Geocities purchase – December 1998) – Web ring site, started by high school student Sage Weil as Webring.org, then owned by Starseed, Inc., when its original developer decided to go to college.

Starseed was purchased by Geocities, and taken over by Yahoo! when they bought Geocities. It was revamped and released under the name Yahoo! Webring, and then subsequently left to (or purchased by) one of the original technicians from webring.org, Tim Killeen.

A Geocities press release snippet available through the Wayback Machine noted that:

NEW YORK, NY — Dec. 7, 1998 — GeoCities (NASDAQ: GCTY), the largest and fastest-growing community of personal websites on the Internet, today announced it has closed the transaction previously announced on Nov. 11, 1998, to purchase Starseed, Inc., known as WebRing. WebRing, based in Ashland, Ore., is the leading provider of ring technology on the Internet.

The sad tale of webring.org is told very well in this Salon article: The strange saga of Yahoo and WebRing

Futuretouch Corporation – via Geocities

Futuretouch Corporation (Geocities Purchase – March 1999) acquired by Geocities prior to Yahoo!’s purchase of Geocities.

Futuretouch had created WebDazzle, a web page design tool that was written in Java. President and CEO Scott Daniel was one of the founders of the company, purchased around the same time that Yahoo! was buying Geocities.

According to his resume, he was the go-to guy during the merging of Geocities and Yahoo!, and was a Yahoo! Vice President for a few years in their Media and Entertainment, and then LifeMedia Properties.

Encompass

Encompass (May 1999) Software to streamline user registration and internet access for consumers
Yahoo! Press Release: Yahoo! Acquires Encompass, Inc.

Yahoo! purchased Encompass Inc., for about $130 million in stock. Encompass developed a customizable Web browser preinstalled on PCs from Acer, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba and others. Their software made connecting to the web easy for new computer owners, and handled the hardware registration process at the same time.

This aquisition gaves Yahoo a company helping people get connected to the Web, and pointing them toward other sites and companies doing business online, providing some advertising opportunities.

Findlaw has a copy of the Yahoo! and Encompass Merger Plan online.

Online Anywhere

Online Anywhere (June 1999) Content reformatting and display technology for automatic reformatting of Web pages to a variety of devices, including Web-connected TVs, PDAs, wireless phonoes and pagers, and voice-only products.

Yahoo! Press Release: Yahoo! Teams with Online Anywhere to Enable “Yahoo! Everywhere”

Online Anywhere, a Motorola (NYSE:MOT) Ventures funded start-up, enables content providers to rapidly reformat and deliver their content to televisions, PDAs, and wireless devices.

Based on patented FlashMap technology, which automatically converts content that has been formatted for a PC to a format appropriate for the device, Online Anywhere eliminates the need for content providers to develop, maintain, and store separate Web pages for each device.

Online Anywhere offers open solutions, giving the content provider the flexibility to support any device, browser, markup language, or transport protocol.

Yahoo! Press Release: Yahoo! Acquires Online Anywhere Enables Users to Get Their Yahoo! Anywhere, Anytime

The company was founded in 1997, under the name Vidam Communications, by three former college roommates in Bombay: Mohan Vishwanath, Anurag Mendhekar and Sridhar Ranganathan.

Here are some patents from folks who worked at Online Anywhere. Only the first one listed is specifically assigned to Online Anywhere. The remainder are assigned to Yahoo!

Method and apparatus to connect a general purpose computer to a special purpose system
Granted August 22, 2000
Filed November 14, 1997
Assigned to Online Anywhere

Abstract:

A transducer for transforming a set of syntactic and sampled data from a general purpose system to control a special purpose system. The transducer includes a first and a second transducer modules.

The first transducer module is coupled to the general purpose system for receiving the syntactic and sampled data from the general purpose system, and to transform the received data into a different set of syntactic and sampled data.

The second transducer module is coupled to the first transducer module for receiving the syntactic and sampled data generated by the first transducer module, and transforming the received data into another set of syntactic and sample data that are different from the other two sets of syntactic and sampled data to control the special purpose system.

Method and apparatus for re-formatting web pages
Granted August 30, 2005
Filed April 30, 1999
Assigned to Yahoo!

Abstract:

Methods and apparatus to selectively display a pre-determined set of contents for a specific class of devices.

The apparatus includes an image generator, a section identifier and a section manipulator. The image generator generates an image of a pre-determined rendition of the set of contents; the section identifier identifies a section in the contents based on a preference of the provider of the set of contents; and the section manipulator re-formats the identified section to generate a new rendition, depending on a characteristic of the specific class of devices and a preference of the provider.

After the re-formatting, the new rendition is displayed on the specific class of devices.

Removing cookies from web page response headers and storing the cookies in a repository for later use
Granted June 21, 2005
Filed May 10, 1999
Assigned to Yahoo!

Abstract:

Methods and apparatus to handle cookies in a response Web page requested by a client.

One method includes the steps of (a) generating a session id to identify a new session, (b) striping off any cookies set by an external web site from the response header of the response Web page, (c) appending the session id to all of the links embedded in the response page, and (d)sending the modified response page, with the new header, to the client.

Intelligent text-to-speech synthesis
Granted September 3, 2002
Filed June 17, 1998
Assigned to Yahoo!

Abstract:

A method and an apparatus of synthesizing speech from a piece of input text 104.

In one embodiment, the method includes the steps of retrieving the input text 104 entered into a computing system, and transforming the input text 104 based on the semantics 152 of at least one word of the input text 104 to generate a formatted text 108 for speech synthesis.

The transforming includes adding an audio rendering effect to the input text based on the semantics of at least one work, the audio rendering effect comprising background music, special effect sounds, and context-sensitive sounds.

In another embodiment, the transformation also depends on at least one characteristic of the person listening to the speech output 118.

In yet another embodiment, the transformation further depends on at least one characteristic of the hardware employed by the user to listen to the speech output 118.

The transformed text can be further modified to fit a text-to-speech engine to generate the speech output 118.

Apparatus and method for abstracting markup language documents
Granted March 19, 2002
Filed January 15, 1999
Assigned to Yahoo!

Abstract:

An apparatus and a method to generate a hyperlinked abstract from a markup language document by parsing the document to create a syntax tree, analyzing statistically the syntax tree based on at least one rule, classifying information at each node of the syntax tree, adapting information at each node of the classified tree for outputting and summarizing the adapted tree to create a hyperlinked abstract of the document to be presented at an output device.

The abstract can be considered as a summarized version of the document.

It occupies less bandwidth than the document, allowing it to be transmitted to a user at a much faster pace, even if the user’s computing system and connection are not very sophisticated.

Through the abstract, the user can quickly become aware of the coverage of the document.

If more detailed information is preferred, the user can access those materials in the document through hyperlinks.

In one embodiment, the summarization step includes grouping, in which a pre-determined number of nodes are grouped together.

In another embodiment, after summarization, the tree can be modified by an output-specific filter, and can be sent to an output device.

Method and apparatus for a client-server system with heterogeneous clients
Granted April 10, 2001
Filed June 17, 1998
Assigned to Yahoo!

Abstract:

Method and apparatus to deliver an application to a client through a transmission medium.

The application can be an interactive application, and the apparatus includes an appliance-specific transducer and an adaptive-transmission transducer.

The appliance-specific transducer, in view of the client’s request for the interactive application in the server, is configured to modify the application based on at least one characteristic of the client and at least one characteristic of the application to generate an appliance-specific output.

Based on at least one characteristic of the application and at least one characteristic of the medium of transmission, the adaptive-transmission transducer is configured to modify the appliance-specific output to generate an adapted output.

The output is delivered through the medium to the client, which includes a decoder and a user-interface.

The decoder decodes the adapted output to produce a modified version of the interactive application to be used by a party through the user-interface.

In another embodiment, the application can be a push application.

Method and apparatus for accessing targeted, personalized voice/audio web content through wireless devices
Granted April 27, 2004
Filed May 15, 2001
Assigned to Yahoo!

Abstract:

A wireless web system allows users to navigate web pages that include links to audio content where the pages are provided over a data connection and the audio content is provided over a voice connection.

An audio content reference generator generates a reference to a portion of static audio content and that audio content reference is provided to the user’s wireless web client as a link on a wireless web page, or other page retrieved by the wireless web device over the data connection.

The audio content reference and a telephone number of an audio server form the link on the page, so that when a user selects that link, the wireless device establishes a voice connection to the audio server using the telephone number and then provides the audio server with the audio content reference so that the user hears the specifically referenced audio content over the voice channel.

Broadcast.com

Broadcast.com (July 1999)

Yahoo! acquired a minority interest in AudioNet in January, 1998. This was the company started by Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner to listen to Indiana basketball games on the Internet.

The company later changed its name to broadcast.com

Yahoo! Press Release: Yahoo! to Acquire Broadcast.com
Yahoo! Press Release: Yahoo! Completes Broadcast.com Acquisition

Simplenet and Net Roadshow, Inc., were purchased by broadcast.com prior to Yahoo! purchasing the company. More about them below.

Simplenet – via Broadcast.com

SimpleNet (Acquired by Broadcast.com – November 1998) Web Host
Acquired by broadcast.com, inherited by Yahoo!, it appears to be back up and running under the Simplenet name.

NetRoadshow, Inc. – via Broadcast.com

NetRoadshow, Inc. (Acquired by Broadcast.com – January 1999) Streaming media; holding electronic roadshows for investment bankers.

Brad Hammond was the founder and President of the company when it was acquired by Broadcast.com. The Atlanta Business Chronicle describes the insight he held that inspired the creation of the company in His brainstorm pays off.

Innovative Systems Services Group, Inc. (ISSG) and MyQuest Systems

Innovative Systems Services Group, Inc. – ISSG – (November 1999) Telecommunications Application provider
From http://yhoo.client.shareholder.com/downloads/yahoo99_10k_intro.pdf

MyQuest Systems (November 1999) telecommunications technology provider
Noted in Yahoo! First Quarter 2000 Financial Results statement

The trail tends to run somewhat cold on these two companies. Both companies shared Madhu Yarlagadda as Founder and CHief Operating Office. It appears that Patrick Loo was also involved with ISSG, possibly as a founder. Both worked for Yahoo! after the acquistions. Madhu Yarlagadda is the Director of Engineering, Communications Products at Yahoo!

The 1999 yearly report from Yahoo! noted that ISSG was still doing research and development at the time of purchase, and their technology was purchased to enhance Yahoo!’s communications efforts.

Patents filed by people related to ISSG and/or Myquest:

Message store architecture
Granted June 17, 2003
Filed September 11, 2000
Assigned to Yahoo!

Abstract:

A unified, intelligent message store is scalable and is optimized to provide both streaming and non-streaming data, as required, to telephony and web-based applications.

A message application server (MAS) includes an expandable number of message pools, each message pool having message blocks that can be linked to store variable length messages.

Multiple MASs can be used to extend the system.

Intelligent voice converter
Granted May 20, 2003
Filed September 11, 2000
Assigned to Yahoo! Inc.

Abstract:

A voice converter includes upstream and downstream resource managers for allocation half-duplex resources of a full duplex DSP transcoder.

The resource managers schedule available upstream or downstream resources and provide transcoded voice data to requesting applications.

Intelligent voice bridging
Granted April 29, 2003
Filed September 11, 2000
Assigned to Yahoo! Inc.

Abstract:

An intelligent voice bridging system and process that scaleably extends the functionality of a VOIP telecommunication application by bridging data from external components into the VOIP data stream.

Patent Applications from people involved with ISSG and/or MyQuest:

Integrated instant messaging, routing and telephone services billing system
Published November 24, 2005
Filed February 10, 2005
Assigned to Yahoo!

Abstract:

Techniques for using billing services to manage a personal address book are provided.

The techniques comprise receiving a call detail record (CDR) for a plain old telephone system (POTS) or a voice-over-IP (VOIP) call by a user.

The CDR is created by a telecommunication carrier that routed the call.

The CDR may be stored on a telecommunications server associated with the telecommunications carrier.

Address information for the call is determined from the CDR. This address information is added to the personal address book for the user.

This address information may be available for the user when using an IM client.

Seamless interfacing for instant messaging and internet telephony across wireless networks
Published November 24, 2005
Filed February 10, 2005
Assigned to Yahoo!, Inc.

Abstract:

A method for managing communications while an application location changes between a first wireless network and a second wireless network is provided.

The method includes mapping an internal address to a first external address for the first wireless network.

A second wireless network is determined to use for sending communications for the application.

The internal address is then mapped to a second address for the second wireless network.

Voice integrated VOIP system
Published May 26, 2005
Filed September 29, 2004
Assigned to Yahoo! Inc.

Abstract:

An integrated VoIP unified message processing system includes a voice platform that processes data in native VoIP format.

There is no use of hardware telephone interface cards (TICs) or software transcoding to transform data to PCM or other formats.

Cost reductions are achieved by the elimination of expensive dedicated hardware and scalability is achieved by obviating the need for software transcoding.

More acquisitions

The years that I haven’t covered yet (2000 – 2003) are some of the most interesting, with some of the biggest and most important acquisitions that Yahoo! has made. I’ll be making some other posts on those as I reseach them further.

I’d also like to thank all of the folks who linked to and commented upon the previous posts I did on the acqusitions that Google and Yahoo! have made. If you have some thoughts about a next candidate, like Read/Write web did with Acquisitions and The Big 3, let me know.

Thanks.

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17 thoughts on “Early Yahoo! Acquisitions (the 1990s)”

  1. I am waiting for ya next big step(companies who bought between 1990-1993) :) so i can consort some companies still out yahoo family to my blogroll.like flickr,upcoming….woohoo.

  2. I got sidetracked on a couple of other projects there. :)

    I have parts of the final installation finished on these acquisitions, but a couple of other ideas to flesh out first. I’m shooting for this weekend.

  3. woohoo,good job.You did a good job,can’t wait and see your next post.but pay more attention on your personal health.Don’t work too hard.lol

  4. Yahoo makes researching these old acquisitions easy by maintaining an archive of press releases in chronological order at – http://yhoo.client.shareholder.com/press/releases.cfm . Granted, it’s a one sided and time consuming view, but there it is all laid out for anyone to see.

    Found linked at – http://info.yahoo.com/center/us/yahoo/

    I did a quick look-through the blog archive and expected to see this already mentioned but didn’t. (Maybe didn’t go far enough?)

  5. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I don’t think that I would say that looking through the press releases made doing this research tremendously easy, though I did look through a few thousand of those documents. If you read through them one at a time, like I did, you’ll see what I mean.

    I linked to a number, but not necessarily all, of the press releases above for some of these acquisitions when there was something in there about a purchase.

    But not every purchase was announced to the press, and there are some gaps in the numbering of the press documents, which might indicate that some documents were removed. Some of the acquisitions were mentioned only in financial statements, and at least a few weren’t mentioned in those either.

    The press releases make for a fascinating history of the company though, and they are a tremendous resource, though like you state, they are a one sided perspective.

    I also relied heavily on the Wayback Machine, but sometimes that was blocked for some of the companies listed.

    Cheers.

  6. Fascinating research, Bill! I just stumbled upon it. There are a few oddball things I had no idea Yahoo! was even interested in acquiring.

    I think even back in the late ’90s Yahoo started to lose sight of what was really important – search. Since then they’ve totally dropped the ball.

  7. Hi Scott,

    Thank you. It is interesting. I’m not sure that we can say that Yahoo dropped the ball on search in the late 90s – they were still much more of a portal than a search engine back then. It’s possible that they are returning to their roots now, with other portal like services taking over from search.

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