Yahoo is the oldest company to come out of the tech boom of the 1990s. Its brash name, bold purple colors and funny advertising seemed like the heralds of a new age. Since its founding, its logo has reflected key moments in Yahoo’s history.
Impact of Yahoo
For many in the 1990s, the portal with the odd name and the funny advertising was everything the internet had promised it would be. It started as a directory that was manually maintained by users known as “surfers.” In its drive to be all things to all people, it added news feeds, sports scores and discussion groups.
Later, it added popular games, travel, maps, a kids’ version called Yahooligans and other services. Yahoo invented the forerunners of Instagram and YouTube as it tried to become an all-purpose portal.
Yahoo became known for its hilarious “yodeling” commercials, in which people yodeled the company’s name. Other ads asked, “Do you Yahoo?” It pioneered the use of pay-per-click advertising, which has become standard on the internet.
How Yahoo Got Its Start
In 1994, Jerry Yang and David Filo were electrical engineering graduate students at Stanford University. At the time, the internet was still a new, unknown world to many people. They decided to create a guide that would help people get the most out of the internet. They built a website and named it Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web.
A year later, they changed the name of their site to Yahoo and the website domain to yahoo.com. The name was an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.”
Words of Wisdom
The word “oracle” didn’t refer to the software company. It referred to the word’s meaning as a place of truth and wisdom.
In a few months, the website had received more than 1 million visitors, and the partners saw the potential for a business venture. They incorporated Yahoo and looked around for investors.
Michael Moritz of the venture capital company Sequoia Capital was the first to step up with two funding rounds that totaled $3 million. Only a year later, Yahoo had its initial public offering and raised $34 million.
How Yahoo Got Its Punctuation: A Trademark Tale
When Filo and Yang tried to trademark the name Yahoo, they discovered the name was already trademarked by several companies, including a barbecue sauce and a set of steak knives. To get around this obstacle, they added the exclamation point. Nobody else had an exclamation point in their name, and that meant the trademark was available.
Yahoo developed its first logo in 1994. This was a simple wordmark that read Yahoo in black lettering and Times New Roman font. Like the portal it represented, it was simple and powerful. After getting its trademark in 1995, the company created a new logo that included the exclamation point.
Realted: How to trademark a logo
The 1990s Were Full of Changes
In March 1995, the company introduced another logo with a completely different design. In this one, a rough, primitive-looking font scrawled “Yahoo” in brown, shaded letters with a black exclamation point.
The logo looked like it belonged on the Flintstones TV show. If you don’t remember this one, that’s because it only lasted five months.
The Jumping Y
The logo that followed was bright and expressive. Designed by in-house graphic artist David Shen, it used a stylized letter Y in bright yellow. The Y appeared to be jumping on a round blue globe. The word Yahoo in bright purple text appeared beneath the globe.
Yahoo referred it to as the “jumping Y.”
The logo didn’t last, but the new wordmark did. Designed by Kevin Farnham of the Organic advertising agency, the mark has remained almost untouched all these years later. It has formed part of every Yahoo logo since then.
Yahoo also created an alternative logo. This was a purple circle with a white “Y” in the center. This logo was designed for use on the Yahoo toolbar. It was known as the Y-bar, which is a printer’s term for an exclamation point.
In the Red
In 1996, Yahoo temporarily changed the color of its mark from purple to a shadowed red text The bold red text was striking, and it lasted for several years.
In 2009, Yahoo went through a corporate rebranding. The effort came after years of bruising takeover fights and merger discussions with fellow tech giant Microsoft. After years of embattled discussions, the two agreed that Microsoft could use Yahoo’s search engine to create its own search engine, which was named Bing.
Yahoo used the opportunity to revert to its original purple color and make other changes to its corporate image. In a post on the company’s website, Yahoo explained, “Say hello to purple as Yahoo enters a new chapter in its history.”
In 2009, the company appointed Carol Bartz as the chief executive officer (CEO) and head of the board of directors. She replaced co-founder Jerry Yang. Bartz later told PC World that Yahoo’s users considered the site “their home on the internet.”
The shakeup accompanied another logo change. This time, Yahoo once again embraced its original purple color. After this, all corporate branding and alternative logos would be in purple.
In 2013, the company created a new logo that used a sans serif font for the first time.
Changes at the Top
Yahoo was one of the few tech companies to survive the tech boom and subsequent bust. After 2009, the company went through some changes and changed leadership several times.
In 2012, former Google executive Marissa Mayer took over as CEO. She is the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company. In 2017, the company sold many of its core businesses to Verizon.
In 2019, the company launched another logo redesign. Well-known graphic design firm Pentagram created a new logo that used lowercase lettering for the first time. This is the logo you now see on all Yahoo products.
The new wordmark features a bold, sans serif font with a slanted exclamation point. It’s a fresh look designed to signal a new era for Yahoo.
An accompanying press release said, “We’re rolling out a series of new products and changes to help you get more of what you love.”