CLOSE
Getty Images
Getty Images

5 Other Big Sites Bought by Yahoo!

Getty Images
Getty Images

Today Yahoo! announced that it's buying Tumblr for $1.1 billion. Let's look back at some other sites taken over by Yahooligans...and see how it turned out for them.

1. GeoCities ($3.6 billion)

Status: dead (except in Japan)


GeoCities-izer

Way back in January 1999, Yahoo! bought GeoCities, the poster child of '90s web communities. Divided into goofy topic-driven "neighborhoods," GeoCities was the place to go to build your first website, cram it full of "under construction" animated GIFs, and then forget about it for a decade.

The purchase was a stock swap valued at $3.57 billion at the time (both Yahoo! and GeoCities were public companies...though GeoCities had "only" a $2.3 billion market cap). When the deal was announced, CNN reported in the acquisition story:

In a separate announcement, GeoCities posted a net loss of $8.4 million, or 27 cents a share, for the fourth quarter ended, compared with losses of $3 million, or 14 cents a share in the year-ago period.

Um. Yeah. Anyhoo, in October 2009 Yahoo! shut down GeoCities, prompting Wired to remember the site and its estimated 38 million user-generated pages with a walk down memory lane, including popups and auto-playing music. A partial archive of GeoCities is available from Archive.org -- maybe your high school website is in there!

2. Flickr (estimated $40 million)

Status: still ticking!


WikiMedia Commons

In 2004, Canadian gaming company Ludicorp launched Flickr as a photo-sharing site. It was an outgrowth of tech the company had developed for its planned massively multiplayer online game Game Neverending, which, ironically, ended before it launched -- Flickr proved far more popular.

Ludicorp was headed by Stewart Butterfield and his then-wife Caterina Fake, and the company's sale to Yahoo! was estimated at around $40 million. Butterfield went on to create another massively multiplayer game in 2011, called Glitch, which closed due to lack of player interest. On the bright side, Flickr is still flicking away, was an estimated 6 billion images as of 2011.

3. del.icio.us ($15-30 million...ish)

Status: alive; sold to AVOS Systems


WikiMedia Commons

Delicious launched in 2003 as a social bookmarking site, using the amusingly awesome domain name "del.icio.us" (that .us on the end is the top-level domain for United States websites). In its heyday, Delicious was an exceedingly popular way to save and share bookmarks, and it boasted millions of users (and millions of dollars of investment, including some from Amazon.com).

Yahoo! picked up Delicious for an undisclosed sum, estimated to be somewhere from $15-30 million, in December 2005. In 2010, a leaked Yahoo! document revealed that the service was slated to be "sunsetted" (corporate speak for "shut down"), leading users to flee to competing sites. In a surprise move, Yahoo! instead sold the service to AVOS Systems in 2011, which promptly removed a bunch of features and re-launched the service.

4. Broadcast.com ($5 billion)

Status: functionally dead; parts folded into Yahoo! Music


Getty Images

In April of 1999, Yahoo! announced a deal to acquire Broadcast.com; the sale closed in July, just months before the dot-com crash in early 2000. The sale made many Broadcast.com employees "paper millionaires" (including a few billionaires) by granting them massive Yahoo! stock options -- the only bummer was that most of those employees couldn't exercise the stock options until after Yahoo! stock tanked, along with virtually the entire dot-com stock sector.

Broadcast.com was an early streaming radio site, and its sale succeeded in making Mark Cuban a billionaire -- he now owns the Dallas Mavericks, Magnolia Pictures, and Landmark Theatres. Cuban used some of his Yahoo! loot to buy a Gulfstream V jet online in October 1999 for $40 million, a feat that earned him a Guinness World Record for the largest single e-commerce transaction.

Broadcast.com holds the distinction of being Yahoo!'s largest dollar-value acquisition.

5. Upcoming.org (terms undisclosed)

Status: dead


WikiMedia Commons

In an attempt to cash in on the "local-content market" (yeah, this was a hot new thing eight years ago), Yahoo! bought Upcoming.org, a social events site, in 2005. I actually used Upcoming.org at that time, and it was a great way to find local events, add them to your calendar, and even see what your friends were going to do after work.

Upcoming.org founder Andy Baio wrote that Yahoo! let the site stagnate after Baio and his compatriots left the company. Earlier this year, Yahoo! announced that it would close Upcoming.org with just 11 days notice, leading Baio to ask for help in archiving the site. The Archive Team sprang into action and used a distributed network of volunteers to scrape the site, saving its catalogue of events. Baio wrote: "It's hard to believe now, but there was a time when Yahoo was actually pretty cool, in its own dorky Silicon Valley way."

Good Luck, Tumblr!

Although Yahoo!'s track record with acquisitions is spotty, a Yahoo! buyout can be a good thing. Looking through Wikipedia's long list of Yahoo! mergers and acquisitions, some stick out as extremely good choices -- for instance, the $92 million acquisition of Four11 (aka RocketMail), which formed the foundation of the still-popular Yahoo! Mail. Plus, let's face it, Mental Floss is on Tumblr, so they've got that going for 'em.

arrow
Afternoon Map
Monthly Internet Costs in Every Country

Thanks to the internet, people around the world can conduct global research, trade tips, and find faraway friends without ever leaving their couch. Not everyone pays the same price for these digital privileges, though, according to new data visualizations spotted by Thrillist.

To compare internet user prices in each country, cost information site HowMuch.net created a series of maps. The data comes courtesy of English market research consultancy BDRC and Cable.co.uk, which teamed up to analyze 3351 broadband packages in 196 nations between August 18, 2017 and October 12, 2017.

In the U.S., for example, the average cost for internet service is $66 per month. That’s substantially more than what browsers pay in neighboring Mexico ($27) and Canada ($55). Still, we don’t have it bad compared to either Namibia or Burkina Faso, where users shell out a staggering $464 and $924, respectively, for monthly broadband access. In fact, internet in the U.S. is far cheaper than what residents in 113 countries pay, including those in Saudi Arabia ($84), Indonesia ($72), and Greenland ($84).

On average, internet costs in Asia and Russia tend to be among the lowest, while access is prohibitively expensive in sub-Saharan Africa and in certain parts of Oceania. As for the world’s cheapest internet, you’ll find it in Ukraine and Iran.

Check out the maps below for more broadband insights, or view HowMuch.net’s full findings here.

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

[h/t Thrillist]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
MECC
arrow
#TBT
Sally Died of Dysentery: A History of The Oregon Trail
MECC
MECC

The eighth grade students sat and watched as Don Rawitsch dragged an enormous device into their classroom. It was December 3, 1971, and Rawitsch—a student teacher at Carleton College outside of Minneapolis who taught history at a local grade school—was ready to show off what his roommates, Paul Dillenberger and Bill Heinemann, had managed to create in only two weeks of programming and with limited, amateur coding skills: a game called The Oregon Trail.

There was no screen to focus on. The computer’s interface was a teletype machine, which spat out instructions and the consequences of a player’s actions on sheets of paper. Adopting the well-worn shoes of settlers migrating from Missouri to Oregon in 1848, the students debated how best to spend their money, when to stop and rest, and how to deal with the sudden and unexpected illnesses that plagued their game counterparts. Rawitsch even supplied them with a map of the journey so they could visualize the perils ahead.

The students loved it: The Oregon Trail would eventually morph from a part-time experiment in guided learning to a staple of classrooms across the country. Kids who had never before heard of diphtheria or cholera would bemoan such cruel fates; tens of thousands of people would (virtually) drown trying to cross rivers; more than 65 million copies would be sold.

But Rawitsch was oblivious to the cultural touchstone The Oregon Trail would become. He didn't foresee the simple game having much of a shelf life beyond the semester, so at the end of the year, he deleted it.

 
 

As low-tech as it was, the first version of The Oregon Trail was still miles ahead of anything Rawitsch could have imagined when he set about trying to engage his students. As a 21-year-old history major, Rawitsch was young enough to realize that his teenaged students needed something more provocative than dry textbooks. In the fall of 1971, he decided to create a board game based on the precarious movement of 19th-century travelers looking to head west to improve their living conditions.

On a large piece of butcher’s paper, he drew a map that provided a rough outline of the 2000-mile journey from Independence, Missouri to Willamette Valley, Oregon. Along the way, players would have to contend with a morbid series of obstacles: fire, inclement weather, lack of food, outdated sicknesses, and, frequently, death. Every decision played a part in whether or not they'd make it to the end without keeling over.

A screen shot from 'The Oregon Trail'
MECC

Rawitsch showed his idea for the board game to Dillenberger and Heinemann, two other seniors from Carleton, who both had experience coding using the BASIC computer language. They suggested Rawitsch’s game would be perfect for a text-based adventure using teletype. A player could, for example, type “BANG” in order to shoot oxen or deer, and the computer would identify how fast and how accurately the typist finished the command—the quicker they were, the better chance they had of securing dinner.

Rawitsch liked the idea, but he was due to start teaching westward expansion in just a couple weeks, so there was no time to waste. Heinemann and Dillenberger worked after-hours for two weeks to get The Oregon Trail ready. When it made its debut that December day in 1971, Rawitsch knew he had a hit—albeit a transient one. Like a teacher who had supervised a special crafts project for a specific classroom, Rawitsch didn’t see a need to retain The Oregon Trail for the future and promptly deleted it from the school’s mainframe system.

Dillenberger and Heinemann took permanent teaching jobs after graduation; Rawitsch found his number called up in the draft. He declared himself a conscientious objector and as part of that found work at the newly-formed Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC), a state-sponsored program that sought to modernize public schools with computing supplies. It was 1974, and Rawitsch believed he had the perfect software to go along with their initiative: The Oregon Trail. Even though he had deleted the game, Rawitsch had kept a printout of the code.

Typing it in line by line, Rawitsch had the game back up and running and available to students across Minnesota. This time, he consulted actual journal entries of settlers to see when and where danger might strike and programmed the game to intervene at the appropriate places along the path. If a real traveler had endured a 20 percent chance of running out of water, so would the player.

Rawitsch got permission from Dillenberger and Heinemann to repurpose the game for MECC. It’s unlikely any one of the three of them realized just how much of an institution the game would become, or how MECC's business partner, Apple—then an upstart computer corporation—would revolutionize the industry.

By 1978, MECC was partnering with the hardware company to sell Apple IIs and learning software to school districts around the country. Rather than being a regional hit, The Oregon Trail—now sporting primitive screen graphics—was becoming a national fixture in classrooms.

 
 

For much of the 1980s and 1990s, school computer classes across America devoted at least some portion of their allotted time to the game. The covered wagon and its misadventures offered something that vaguely resembled the hypnotic, pixely worlds waiting for students on their Nintendo consoles at home. In that respect, The Oregon Trail felt a little less like learning and a lot more like entertainment—although completing the journey in one piece was an unusual occurrence. More often, players would be defeated by malnutrition or drowning in attempts to cross a river. They'd also be confounded by the idea they could hunt and kill a 2000-pound animal but were able to take only a fraction of it back to their wagon. (Confronted with this during a Reddit Ask Me Anything in 2016, Rawitsch noted that "the concept represented there is supposed to be that the meal will spoil, not that it's too heavy," and suggested incorporating a "fridge with a 2000-mile extension cord.")

A screen shot from 'The Oregon Trail'
MECC

An updated version, Oregon Trail II, debuted on CD-ROM in 1995. MECC would change hands a few times, being acquired by venture capitalists and then by the Learning Company, and was even owned for a period of time by Mattel. Attempts to update it with flashy graphics felt contrary to the spirit of the game; like the settlers it depicted, The Oregon Trail seemed to belong to another era.

Today, both Dillenberger and Heinemann are retired; Rawitsch is a tech consultant. None of them received any profit participation for the software. Their joint effort was inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame in 2016 and was adapted into a card game that same year. Today, players of the popular role-playing game Minecraft can access a virtual Oregon Trail world; the original game is also playable in browsers. Technology may have advanced, but you can still die of dysentery as often as you like.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios