Early in 1995, my friends Jerry Yang and David Filo asked if I wanted to have lunch. I thought it was just lunch. But it kicked off an epic journey as I joined their initial development team of five people to turn their labor of love, Yahoo!, into a company.
“You’re doing what?” “With whom?” “Wait, is that the chocolate drink company?”
Today more than 15 years later, I’m proud to announce my graduation from Yahoo! employee to Yahoo! user. No blog post can capture the density of this experience, the richness of what I’ve learned, and the profound gratitude I’ll always have — for David and Jerry taking that leap of faith in me, and for the thousands of Yahoo! employees who have made this a place where magic happens. And above all, nothing I write can convey how humbled and inspired I’ve been by the hundreds of millions of you who share your time, extend your trust, and make Yahoo! a part of your lives. I’m glad to count myself among you.
When we started, Yahoo! was a directory of websites. We couldn’t wait to see the amazing things people would do when they discovered the Web. We pioneered a new profession: Web Surfer. Categorizing sites of every stripe was hardly a perfunctory exercise; we understood that the sum total of our myriad, minute choices — what we include, what we call things, where we put things, how we describe things — reveals a point of view. The mere act of aggregation is creation; aggregation has a voice. In our aim to be a helpful guide to the Web, we confronted the politics of classification, and how it can illuminate human conflict.
In embarking on the task of bringing order to so much information, we established foundational principles for the voice of Yahoo!, which are as relevant today as they were when the Web was new: Be simple, clear, direct. Be useful, inclusive, and provide context, not judgment.
This has never been about us or the technology, but about helping people tap into the transformative power of this medium. It’s about what interests you, what entertains you, what informs you, what helps you express yourself. It’s about what connects you to other people, what connects you to something bigger — and ultimately, what inspires you to recognize and expand your own creative capacity to make the world a better place.
We spend every day in service to those goals. I’ve stayed at Yahoo! with an abiding passion to embed those core values in our work. I leave with the satisfaction of knowing they’re firmly established in our DNA.
As I turn in my employee badge, I’ll be devoting more time to my longstanding love for jazz. I chair the board of SFJAZZ, a nonprofit in San Francisco in the midst of an exciting phase of growth. On the opposite side of the country, my partner Josh and I are developing a performance and production center for creative music in Brooklyn. At Yahoo! I’ve witnessed the kinds of circumstances that give rise to great creativity, and I find the same holds true in music: bringing together diverse perspectives in a collaborative spirit, allowing each voice individual expression in service to the collective whole, striking just the right balance between structure and freedom, being mindful and respectful of the past but relentlessly looking forward to what’s next.
With deepest respect and thanks for the past, I’m looking forward to what’s next.
-Srinija Srinivasan, aka Ninj
from Ontological Yahoo to Vice President, Editor in Chief