Ghost Sites of the Web

Web 1.0 history, forgotten web celebrities, old web sites, commentary, and news by Steve Baldwin. Published erratically since 1996.

August 01, 2008 is Dead (Does Anybody in NY Still Care?) is Dead (Does Anybody in NY Still Care?)
It's impossible to tell the story of Silicon Alley without mentioning WWWAC (the World Wide Web Artists' Consortium), whose most influential instantiation was its popular mailing list. Back in the 1990's, it seemed everybody who could hack an HTML page belonged to the WWWAC list. Spectacular flame wars were started there, jobs were offered and gotten, technologies and individuals were hyped beyond belief, and misery was shared when New York's nascent technology industry melted down into wax after the boom busted in 2000. WWWAC also did its part to create a "scene" through its many CyberSuds parties in the same way Courtney Pulitzer sought to.

Today, New York is in the midst of a modest technology industry comeback. Google and Yahoo both have offices in Manhattan from which are hatched plans to capture media spend from the old line advertising agencies. Employment has withstood the worst of today's cutbacks, which have fallen heavier on the financial industry than tech.

Unfortunately, the WWWAC site doesn't reflect New York's revived tech economy. It lingers like a sullen ghost, with its Online Jobs Board empty, and its most recent "upcoming event" listing dating from more than a year ago. You can almost see the tumbleweeds blowing through the other ruined areas of this site, all of which are in advanced states of bitrot.

Are you interested in the history of Silicon Alley? Fred Wilson was influential in Manhattan's tech industry evolution. He has spokeon the subject candidly in the past, and in September must deliver a 25 minute speech summing up key events in the evolution of New York's high-tech industry that spans the early experimental years, the bust, and the future. Fred's Wiki (The New York Internet Industry Brainstorm WIKI) is open to all who have stories to add.

Ghostie Award: Site is Dead, Shows Advanced DecayFour Ghosties (Site is Dead, shows Advanced Decay) Very few sites lying in a state of advanced decay ever come back. "Advanced Decay" usually indicates a lot of broken links, possibly some broken applications, and a "Last Updated" sign from many months ago.

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July 29, 2008

Fun With Search Engines: "Tarnished Internet Portal" Proves Google is Best

Fun With Search Engines: Tarnished Internet Portal Proves Google is Best
After seeing Yahoo referenced as a "tarnished Internet portal" today in a news article, I examined the search engines to see which of them properly associated this characterization. Neither nor nor nor newcomer had any data, but Google, in its infinite wisdom, correctly revealed a smiling picture of Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang, along with a bunch of stock charts in decline. Does anyone need additional proof about Google's superior search prowess?

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July 08, 2008

New Mediapost Article: Inside Microsoft's War Room

Inside Microsoft's War RoomLatest MediaPost article by yours truly, on how Microsoft (with or without Yahoo) plans to ultimately dominate the post-desktop computing environment. In a nutshell, victory for MSFT means dominating the air and completing control of the home.

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June 27, 2008

How to Read a Yahoo Reorg Memo

How to Read a Yahoo Reorg Memo

I was inspired to provide a machine-to-human translation of Yahoo's memo detailing its attempt to save itself. This post originally appeared on the pages of Silicon Alley Insider.


SUNNYVALE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - News), a leading global Internet company, today announced changes to its organization aimed at improving its products, technologies and execution.

Translation: Our products are undistinguished, our technologies are iffy, and our execution has been egregious. We're going to throw all the chess pieces in the air now, and hope they magically rearrange themselves in a way resembling a credible strategy.

The moves support its strategy to be the starting point for the most users, the must-buy for the most advertisers and the platform of choice for developers.

Translation: We haven't evolved from a portal, we still depend on "bulk tonnage" media buys, and we're desperately hoping that outside developers will do something interesting with Yahoo before Carl Icahn and his buddies bail out and send the stock to $10 a share.

Key Elements

Yahoo! announced are the centralization of consumer product development to enhance the company’s ability to release products worldwide; the creation of a U.S. region focused on bringing products to market for users, advertisers and publishers; formation of an insights strategy team; and enhancements to the technology infrastructure to optimize the use of data and improve coordination between product and engineering teams.

Translation: Somewhere along the way we lost track of where our people worked, what they did, who they reported to, and why we even hired them in the first place. We haven't developed many consumer products that have been of any interest to users recently (because we've been so busy talking up advertisers and publishers), and have been so focussed on on the Far East, where has been making us money (at least on paper), that we plain forgot that it kind of matters what we do in the U.S., hence the new group. As far as our new "Insights Strategy Team," we're hopeful that they can come up with a more interesting strategy than this tired portal-start-page business, which nobody takes seriously in a Web 2.0 world.

“These moves accelerate the ability of our deep and talented team to build great products, grow our audiences and improve monetization globally,” said Jerry Yang, CEO. “They are designed to put us in an even better position to leverage our leading global audience and capture the opportunity we see in the convergence of search and display advertising.”

Translation: Peek-a-boo: I'm Jerry Yang and miraculously, I'm still here! By the way, our whole game is dependent on the dubious proposition that display ads (which don't work) can be turned into gold by making them stalk you as you surf around the Web. It's inevitable that some sorehead will eventually point out that this idea is a chimera but we'll all be outta here by then.

Business and Product Changes

The company is creating three new teams that will report to President Sue Decker. An Audience Products Division will assume responsibility for companywide product strategy and product management.

Translation: We still think of our users as "an audience" that should be talked to, not listened to. After all, the main thing that keeps us going is big brand spenders who really don't care about all that fancy-dancy "conversation" stuff.

It will be led by Ash Patel who previously managed the company’s Platforms & Infrastructure group. A U.S. region with accountability for all go-to-market activity in the U.S. will be led by Hilary Schneider, who previously headed the company’s Global Partner Solutions group. Finally, an Insights Strategy team will assume responsibility for centralizing and executing a common strategy for the use of data and analysis across Yahoo!. The company plans to name this group’s leader within the next few weeks.

Translation: We're enshrining "Failing Upward" as our new company slogan.

“The changes we’re making today will help deliver superior global products for users and enable faster and better decision-making,” said President Sue Decker. “This is a logical next step in light of our success last year in moving to a more centralized approach to developing world-class marketing products. We have planned these changes deliberately over the past several months to clarify responsibilities and to capitalize on the scale advantages while allowing for fine tuning to meet local market needs.”

Translation: I'm Sue Decker and I speak in mind-numbing generalities. I don't expect you to know what the heck I'm referring to when I speak of last year's "success... in moving to a more centralized approach to developing world-class marketing products" but trust me: we're on the right track. Oh, and we weren't panicked into making these changes by everything that's happened since February. We've been planning them since 1997.

Technology and Infrastructure Changes
Yahoo! is making changes to its technology organization, led by Chief Technology Officer Ari Balogh, to better position the company to execute on its strategic priorities. Principal changes are developing a world-class cloud computing and storage infrastructure; rewiring Yahoo! onto common platforms; and creating a stronger partnership between product and engineering teams.“Since my arrival at Yahoo! earlier this year, we’ve carefully evaluated the best possible configuration of our technology group to support our business strategies,” said Balogh. “I’m excited by the depth of our team which—combined with the talent we continue to recruit—will execute even better under this new structure.” In order to expand its cloud computing capabilities, the Company will form a Cloud Computing & Data Infrastructure Group, charged with developing a computing infrastructure that balances scalability with cost effectiveness. It will move all consumer-facing platform teams to the Audience Technology Group, led by Venkat Panchapakesan. In addition, it is putting new leadership in place behind Yahoo!’s search group, naming Prabhakar Raghavan to direct search strategy and Tuoc Luong as the interim leader of the search product team. Both Prabhakar and Tuoc will also continue in their roles as the leaders of Yahoo! Research and Search Engineering respectively. In addition, David Ku will lead the Advertising Technology Group within Search. Yahoo!’s Marketing Products Division, Connected Life and Corporate Marketing groups will continue to operate as they do today.

Translation: Lots of fun changes afoot in the engine room! We can't tell you what the heck cloud computing has to do with our unchangeable portal strategy, but maybe we can finally develop some kind of product beyond Flickr that people would actually pay for so we're covered when the banner ad bubble pops. Hey - did you notice that we haven't actually mentioned any layoffs in this memo? Don't worry: they're coming, and it's more than likely that the grunts, not the execs, will take the brunt. Why cut fat when you can cut muscle?

About Yahoo! Inc.

Yahoo! Inc. is a leading global Internet brand and one of the most trafficked Internet destinations worldwide. Yahoo! is focused on powering its communities of users, advertisers, publishers, and developers by creating indispensable experiences built on trust. Yahoo! is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California.

Translation: We still live and die by raw, undifferentiated traffic. Just about everything we do is duplicated by competing services, so the "creating indispensible experiences" phrase is there strictly for laughs. We still have a hell of a memorable domain name, however, and it's for sale at a price that I'm sure you'll all find reasonable.

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May 12, 2008

Microsoft - Yahoo: A Big Gaudy Sideshow

Microsoft - Yahoo: A Big Gaudy SideshowI've weighed in this week over on MediaPost on the Yahoo-Microsoft Deal That Wasn't. The skinny: Microsoft has much bigger fish to fry than to fritter with the likes of Yahoo: its strategy (post-DOJ settlement) is to outflank, not to confront directly, its main nemesis in the online ad space.

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January 22, 2008

Ghost Blogs of Yahoo

The Dead Roam Here (<br />Ghost Blogs of Yahoo)Of Yahoo's 26 "official" Blogs, eight of them haven't been updated in the last month. Two of them were last updated in September of 2007. We're not sure why these Blogs are "calling in sick;" could it be low morale among the Yahooligans? A lack of things to say? Burnout? Whatever the reason, it's not a healthy sign for Yahoo.

Bix Blog
I'm not sure what "Bix" was, but this Blog was last updated on 11/1/07

JumpCut Blog
This service is still online, but the Blog is showing its age; it was last updated more than a month ago. News
Not sure what "Upcoming" was or is, but the Blog is definitely dead (last updated 11/22/07)

Yahoo! 360° Product Blog
A Blog about Yahoo's failed social network; last update 10/24/07

Yahoo! Digital Home
The product is still alive, but the "Happy Holidays" message marks this Blog as severely underutilized; updated 11/20/07

Yahoo! Local & Maps Blog
This Blog is looking tired, and was last updated 12/18/07.

Yahoo! Research Berkeley Blog
This crusty Blog was abandoned last September.

Yahoo Music Blog
The music world is falling apart, and so is this Blog, last updated 9/30/07.

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December 06, 2007's Failure Signals Social Networking Shakeout Ahead

The social networking shakeout officially began this week with the announcement that, a property developed by BlueLithium and acquired by Yahoo, will be shutting down on January 7, 2008. surfaced in late 2005 as a "next generation social network" whose purpose was to "extend one's nightlife online." Its founders were social butterflies and sought to make the glue that would link the people they met in clubs with online people who might be likely to frequent the same places. It is not clear whether the project ever had a clear business model or was just a neat toy for the founders to play with. may be a casualty of Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang's 100-day effort to reel in Yahoo's sprawling mix of properties, which do not function cohesively and badly need rationalization.

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July 03, 2007

Yahoo SmartAds or Yahoo SmartAsses?

Google SmartAds SERP, July 3, 2007

I was working on an article today on Yahoo SmartAds, which is the name given to Yahoo's latest attempt to make graphical display advertising (otherwise known as junky, irrelevant, low-rent banner ads) as smart as text-based search advertising. So naturally, I went to Google and typed in "SmartAds" and Google wisely served up the page you see above with the suggestion that I was looking for Smartass, not SmartAds.

I'm not cynical enough to believe that somebody at Google saw all that traffic coming to Google after Yahoo announced SmartAds last Sunday and manually added this snarky suggestion. I can only conclude that the Google algorithm is developing a wicked sense of humor!

I thought that Yahoo would dispense with any Google-style "smartass" SERP humor and give me the straight dope on SmartAds, so I went there and typed in "SmartAds." But the Yahoo SERP yielded no trace of Yahoo's SmartAds (although it included results for a Canadian design company called "SmartAds," a site called "," and a site called "" (see screenshot below).

It turns out that the Smartasses at Yahoo had buried the SmartAds press release deep within the "About" area of Yahoo, a section that's evidently never been visited by Yahoo's search spider.

If this is cutting-edge technology, I'm a pretzel. (A tip for Yahoo - why not run an iddy biddy paid search ad for "SmartAds" on this SERP? It wouldn't cost you a dime to do so!)

Yahoo SmartAds SERP, July 3, 2007

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June 19, 2007

Yahoo Could Have Been a Contender

Everybody in tech is talking about the fact that Yahoo's Terry Semel is stepping down, what it means for Yahoo, what it means for Google, yadayadayada.

Let's get to the point. Yahoo tried to be all things to all people. It pimped its pages to whoever would pay the most for cluttering them up. In its prime, it collected almost a half a million dollars a day from anybody who wanted to rent its big billboard of a home page. Instead of devoting themselves to their users, they sold out to the big brand guys with boxcars full of cash. The result was a confused, tacked together melange of services, some good, others not. You can see this content bloat graphically in a direct comparison of Yahoo's home pages with Google's.

Yahoo is the Pathfinder of the new millenium. Terry Semel came from Time-Warner, and like the people who ran Pathfinder, completely misinterpreted the nature of the Web revolution, where documents, not navigational eddies such as portals or other artificial structures, rule, and people have the freedom to "unstick" themselves from even the stickiest portal at the drop of a hat.

Yahoo has 12,000 employees and at least 100 Vice Presidents. I don't know what these people do all day but they're certainly not working on Yahoo's technology. Its management spent tons of money on elaborate offline marketing, including movie ads, big billboards, and other foolishness. It kept its traffic pumped up through acquisitions, but never really gave anybody a compelling reason to use Yahoo.

This is all sad because Yahoo used to be a damned good site. It was the first site to have a kick-ass news area, a great financial area, and a directory which, back when search engines were really crappy, was really useful. But like many dotcom failures, Yahoo overinvested in marketing, bean counters, and sales people, and let both its directory and its technology moulder away. This is classic Web 1.0 cluelessness, and while I don't think Yahoo will die tomorrow, it's day is past.

I can't imagine Yahoo pulling itself out of its mess without a major restructuring, which is a nice way of saying mass layoffs. You don't need 12,000 people to run a website.

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May 23, 2007

Yahoo Closes was a site created by Lucas Gonze that allowed users to share playlists. In a sense, it let people assemble their own virtual jukeboxes: a cute enough idea for Yahoo to acquire it in early 2006, making Gonze a very rich man. never really seemed to gain traction and never broke Alexa's Top 100,000 list. In the wake of the infamous "Peanut Butter Manifesto," issued internally last year, which excoriated Yahoo's management for "spreading itself too thin," was given the deep-six in May of 2007, and will close at the end of the month.

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May 12, 2007

Ghost Ads of Yahoo

I was rummaging around inside Yahoo a while back and found a bunch of very early GIF89A ad banners. GIF89A, of course, was the magic technology that was discovered in 1996-97. Within a very short time, animation-fever gripped the cube farms of Web designers across the land. Sadly, few examples survive today, which makes the Yahoo Find significant. These ads are not cached copies - they actually still exist on Yahoo, although it is improbable that they're linked from any active areas of the site. These ads, therefore, may be among the oldest commercial digital objects still doing what they were designed to do - sell products (even if these products were "overtaken by events").

Independent: On the Edge: Are You? (Web Innovation 1997 trade show)

This nearly ten-year old ad for a long-forgotten technology conference dates itself authoritatively in early 1997. It is significant in terms of perserving one of the major intellectual conceits of the dot-com era ("Independent: On the Edge"). Note that the copy provides not a "Front Door to the Future", but a "Frontdoor" - a textual consolidation possibly forced by the spatial limitations of the 468 x 60 canvas. Like virtually all of these early ads, it has no way of turning itself off.

IBM "Revolving Door" (World Avenue)

"When you're done browsing here - Shop at IBM's World Avenue", this looping ad announces, but not the differences. Neither IBM's holy "eight bar" logo nor any of the Times Roman text is animated - doing this would have clearly outraged whichever Interactive Design Subcommittee oversaw this ad's production. IBM's "World Avenue" was closed in late 1997. According to the Wall Street Journal, "when it came to shoppers, World Avenue was more like a deserted street, producing minimal revenue not only for mall tenants like department-store chain Gottschalks Inc., but also for IBM, which had planned to make money by taking a cut of every World Avenue transaction." IBM's choice of the endlessly looping "revolving door" may seem an ironic one, given how many former managers of this company have now passed through it.

Get Quenched: Sunny Delight

The early adopters of GIF89A animation might have been technology firms, but it wasn't very long before big consumer brands sought to upgrade their static banner ads with animation, often in connection with the promotion of an online contest or game."Get Quenched" is obviously an early effort whose unimaginative use of the animation medium seems tangibly primitive today. Sunny Delight - the drink, still exists, although it is inconceivable that the "Get Quenched" game is still in existence on the Web.

If you find an old banner ad out on the Web somewhere, please tell me about it. Early examples of these loopy, looping animations are very hard to find these days in the ever-deleting, snake-eats-tale bitstream.

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May 09, 2007

Yahoo Auctions Closing Down

Yahoo Auctions Will Soon Be Defunct
Wow - this is a biggie. Yahoo Auctions will close down on June 16th, a move that essentially concedes the Web-based auction space to (Thanks to for breaking this news).

This is actually a good move for Yahoo, which over the past several years has amassed a huge but often inchaote group of properties that have given it scale but very little integration or coherence. It will be interesting to see whether Yahoo pares other underperforming sites/services from its vast roster in the near future.

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