Mumbai: Yahoo Inc. was one of the poster childs of the internet and was valued at over $100 billion at its peak around the year 2000. Today, its board approved the sale of the company’s core business to Verizon Communications Inc., in a deal valued at a mere $4.8 billion, signifying how companies can easily lose their first-mover advantage and be a relic on the web if they’re not vigilant.

Ironically, Verizon also owns another poster child of the internet—Netscape Communications, best known for its web browser Netscape Communicatior that was a household name during the dotcom days-- thanks to its acquisition of AOL Inc. Incidentally, when AOL planned to merge with media conglomerate Time Warner in January 2000, it was valued at $163 billion. Verizon Communications bought AOL for a mere $4.4 billion last May.

What went wrong with Yahoo, a company whose market cap till late 2004 was more than that of Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc. and Google, which has just come up with its initial public offering (IPO)?

In the 1990s, Yahoo upstaged search engines such as Altavista, Excite and Northern Light. It saw itself as a media company, and behaved like one. It had an early opportunity to buy Google but chose not to. It did , however, allow the G start-up to power its search engine. Today, Google is almost synonymous with search, both globally as well as in India, despite Microsoft Corp’s Bing.

Also Read: Yahoo’s demise: Nice guy founders are partly to blame

As Yahoo’s fortunes started declining partly on account of a revolving door of CEOs confused about what the company was all about, Google tried to acquire Yahoo. In 2008, Microsoft made an about $45 billion bid for it. But both the deals failed, and the Yahoo brand name received a drubbing, both in terms of revenue and image. Yahoo later forged a tie-up with Microsoft’s search engine, Bing.

In 2009, in a bid to recover lost ground and capture marketshare, Yahoo initiated a $100-million global plan under then CEO Carol Bartz. India was an integral part of the Ogilvy campaign which read: ‘The internet is under a new management—YOURS. It’s Y!ou’.

Like others who came before her, though, Bartz failed. She was asked to exit in September 2011, after which Scott Thompson took over as CEO but he too resigned after less than six months on the job as a controversy flared up over his academic credentials. Thompson was replaced CEO Marissa Mayer, a longtime Google executive, who took over as Yahoo’s third CEO in 12 months.

Also Read: Verizon buys Yahoo, Marissa Mayer says planning to stay

From communities to groups to news to blogging to photo-sharing , Yahoo was an early adopter -- it usually bought out the innovators -- that failed.

Geocities was put to rest by Yahoo, almost 15 years after it was born. Yahoo bought GeoCities for around $3.6 billion in 1999. At that time it was the world’s third-most visited website. Today, it exists only in Japan. Yahoo’s $1.1 billion acquisition of Tumblr, a microblogging and social networking website, failed to deliver a desperately needed revenue boost. Flickr--an image hosting and video hosting website and web services suite that was created by Ludicorp in 2004 and acquired by Yahoo in March, 2005--has stiff competiton from Google Photos.

Monday’s deal marks the end of Yahoo as an operating company. Yahoo’s shareholders and regulators must still approve the deal, but the companies expect it to close in early 2017. Of course, it still leaves Yahoo with a 15% stake in Chinese ecommerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and a 35.5% interest in Yahoo Japan Corp. But it will have to change its name after the deal closes.

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