It was late 1994, and my company was just a few months old. I was trying to submit it to the Yahoo! directory, but Yahoo! did not have a category for “Web Promotion“, because there was no web promotion industry yet (hard to imagine that today). There were a few search engines, but there were no SEO or web promotion companies. I kept telling myself that all these new web sites were invisible unless someone knew the URL to find them. That belief is what made me leave Grad school to see if my idea would work. -Eric Ward
Below is the original email exchange from December 21, 1994 between Jerry Yang and I. Jerry was a student at Stanford, and Yahoo! was still a hobby for him and David Filo as they worked toward their degrees. Back then Yahoo! lived at akebono.stanford.edu/yahoo/. You can see what Yahoo! looked like in this old image. (side note: there are still over 3,000 domains linking to akebono.stanford.edu/yahoo/ even though that URL has been dead for 17 years. Now that’s An Embarrassment Of Dead Link Riches)
Back to my point, if I have one. I was in Graduate School and had started my company (named NetPOST) from my kitchen table in my apartment. My first client work was done over a 14.4 modem.
I decided I would let the world know my company existed, to see if I could attract clients from outside Knoxville. As I was trying to submit my new web site to Yahoo! I discovered there were no appropriate categories for my services. So I sent the below email to Jerry and asked if he would create a new category for me called “Web Promotion”. Jerry replied yes. And that is how this whole mess started.
Below is the fateful email that gave web promotion it’s own category. I apologize.
From: email@example.com (Jerry Chih-Yuan Yang)
Subject: Re: new category request
Date: 21 Dec 1994 11:19:12 GMT
Organization: Computer Systems Laboratory, Stanford University
In-reply-to: firstname.lastname@example.org’s message of Tue, 20 Dec 1994 09:13:04 GMT
hi eric – i will create a category for web promotion and place you in it.
Can you help me create new category for Web promotion services?
Yahoo does not have one. The closest match is at
I haven’t found any other companies that do what I do, so
any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated.
NetPOST – Web Promotion Services
If you’d like to read more about Yahoo!s early days, here’s a fantastic oral history from The Internet History Podcast:
The History of Yahoo’s Founding