Yahoo vs Google — How the homepage has evolved

Monish Kumar
13 min readJan 15, 2016

Yahoo was founded in January 1994 by two electrical engineering graduate students at Stanford University. Google, too was founded in January at Stanford University, but it was in 1996(two years after Yahoo was founded) by two PhD students.

Yahoo started out as a hierarchal directory of other websites while Google started out as a search engine(ranking the websites based on a number of factors). Right from the beginning Yahoo was focussed on filling its webpage with content leaving little white space while Google was happy having a lot of white space on its homepage.

Following are screenshots from the Yahoo and Google homepage from their starting years till now. This comparison gives a good idea of how the companies have evolved. I was not able to get the screenshots of how Yahoo and Google looked in their starting stages (I was able to get the screenshots of Yahoo only from 1996 and Google from 1998).

Yahoo 1996
Yahoo 1997

During 1996 and 1997, Yahoo was just literally a catalogue(or directory) of other websites(you could search through the category though).

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1998

Yahoo 1998

The difference from Yahoo’s homepage in 1997 and 1998 is the addition of their Yahoo mail link just right after the search box. Google, right from the beginning embraced the use of white space and focussed only on one thing on its home page — Google Search.

Google 1998

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1999

Yahoo 1999

In 1999, you can see that Yahoo is pushing news on its homepage in the gray box on the right. Meanwhile, Google continues to use white space as its friend and there is very little the user could do on Google’s homepage other than search. Compared to the hundreds of links on Yahoo’s homepage, there are less than five links on Google’s homepage before you search for anything.

Google 1999

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2000

Yahoo 2000

Yahoo continues to pack its homepage with links and more links. It was probably trying to become a newspaper as well as a directory of online websites. It was like Yahoo couldn’t figure out what to do(either be a directory or a search engine or a newspaper like website and ended up being all the three). Yahoo even started pushing the eCommerce model with their Yahoo Shopping directory links on the homepage inside a fancy box.

Google, on the other hand continued to refine the already refined homepage and kept it very simple allowing the users to just search. Google felt threatened by Yahoo in the late 90s and added a Yahoo style web directory(organized by topic). But it was clear that the homepage was not to be meddled with and it just had a link to a directory. It was in 2000 that Google started selling advertisements and there are a couple of links on the homepage related to that(only a couple of links to own’s business compared to the numerous in Yahoo’s homepage).

Google 2000

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2001

Yahoo 2001

Yahoo’s homepage remained largely similar but with more ads and the word “free” in red.

Google had added images search, groups search and directory search to its homepage, but it did so in a while that it is still largely the same. The focus is still on the web search.

Google 2001

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2002

Yahoo 2002

Yahoo’s homepage continued to grow in size. This time it seemed to be categorized and its primary focus, web directory, was pushed down making Yahoo TV the center of attraction on the page. Yahoo’s logo continued to be flanked by its own services and search seemed to be the smallest part of the page.

Google was clearly afraid of Yahoo’s tactics and decided to add a link to News tab on its homepage. Google, despite being afraid of Yahoo, was not willing to let go of its key focus — Search on its homepage.

Google 2002

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2003

Yahoo 2003

Yahoo’s homepage continued to be full of blue links and Ads and links to its own services. Yahoo finally managed to add a background to its search bar in the top to set it apart from the other things on its homepage.

Google’s homepage remained almost unchanged from the last year and continued to be simple.

Google 2003

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2004

Yahoo 2004

Yahoo’s web directory links were pushed well down and the primary focus seemed to be on Yahoo Movies and Yahoo Mail(well distinguished from the other content on the page) with Yahoo’s diversity expanding to entertainment news. Yahoo might have begun to understand the importance of search as it continued to appear on the top of the page, below the logo and appeared well defined on the page.

Google got rid of the tabs for its other links below the logo and now they are just regular links. Google got rid of the link to directory, but added a link to Froogle. Froogle was Google’s response to Yahoo Shopping. Somehow Google indicated that the Groups link is new, despite it being there since 2001. The total number of links on Google’s homepage still were quite little. Google had placed all its other links inside a “more” link, thereby keeping the homepage clean.

Google 2004

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2005

Yahoo 2005

Yahoo had been advertising on its homepage, but it was mostly with small banners and links, but in 2005, it bet big on big banners on its homepage. The previous year, where there was a big Yahoo Movies section, was now replaced with a big Chevrolet Ad and similarly. And where there was a Yahoo Mail section, you s saw another Chevrolet ad.

Yahoo Locals was actually a thing in the early 2000s and Google seemed to known that — hence the link to Local on its homepage. Also, a big step came in 2005 when Google started allowing a personalized homepage and allowing you to sign in to its service from the homepage. The couple of links on the top were new to Google, but they took little away from search and still keeping the homepage clean and white.

Google 2005

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2006

Yahoo 2006

Yahoo underwent a big homepage design change in 2006 with a lot of things changing. Such a big design change would have been very tough for the users to cope up with. Yahoo’s logo became less crowded with only two buttons below it. The search got a layout change and is now on the top of the page to the right of the Yahoo logo instead of being below it. Yahoo’s homepage used the three column layout with Yahoo’s services taking the left column, news taking the center column(center of attraction) and Yahoo’s other services and ads taking the right column. Yahoo was pushing its toolbar with it being the first link on the top left of the page and also, Yahoo wanted users to set it as their homepage. Also, Yahoo removed the directory of links from its homepage.

Google’s focus hadn’t wavered at all. Focus on Google search and white space seemed to continue in Google’s homepage design.

Google 2006

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2007

Yahoo 2007

Riding on the design change in the previous year, Yahoo’s homepage hadn’t changed much expect that it got rid of the toolbar download link on the top left and instead started promoting Internet Explorer. The Yahoo logo seemed more isolated with the two buttons below it disappearing.

Google further refined the focus on search by moving the tabs from below the logo to the top of the page. There were more links on the top, but those are clearly separated out by the top bar and Google search is all you have at the center of the page. Google had added Maps, Shopping and Gmail links to the top bar.

Google 2007

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2008

Yahoo 2008

The top portion of the homepage had been changed to make the logo center of the section with the search bar below it. Below it, everything seemed to be similar with lots of Ads and News content along with Yahoo services. See the Netflix ad on the top right corner?

Google hadn’t changed much from 2007 to 2008 on the homepage front.

Google 2008

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2009

Yahoo 2009

Another design change for Yahoo. Although the layout hadn’t changed much, the design felt very new and would have taken time getting used to. The logo was pushed to the left and the search bar to its right. There was a lot of customization option on the Yahoo homepage.

While Yahoo had been going through numerous design change on the homepage, Google had just added Videos link to the top bar and removed the search preferences from the right of the search bar and added it to the top bar on the right side.

Google 2009

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2010

Yahoo 2010

Yahoo changed its logo in 2010 and the new logo took the same place on the top left side. The focus continued to be on content and Yahoo had even added videos to its homepage.

Google hadn’t changed much although it introduced Google Doodle — a fun replacement for the Google logo for a major event. White space and focus on search continued to be the motto of Google’s homepage.

Google 2010

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2011

Yahoo 2011

Layout changes had become very common with Yahoo each year and 2011 was no different. Yahoo realigned a few things, but the focussed was mostly news. Videos on the homepage yet again.

Google changed the background of its top nav bar and added a link to its own business below the search bar. But other than, the design hadn’t changed.

Google 2011

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2012

Yahoo 2012

News, Videos and Ads continued to be the mainstay of Yahoo’s homepage. Not much had changed except the small layout changes.

Google had added links to its Play Store and Google Drive on the top bar. It had also changed the videos link to YouTube. Other than that, there wasn’t much change.

Google 2012

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2013

Yahoo 2013

Yahoo’s logo changed once again and the design changed — again. Yahoo’s homepage now had a top bar similar to the one Google had. It had links to Yahoo’s services. The logo was at the top left and the search right next to it. Yahoo continued with the three column layout — left for its services, center for news(from other sources) and right for widgets and ads -(It looked like a typical Wordpress blog).

Google’s homepage hadn’t changed anything in 2013.

Google 2013

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2014

Yahoo 2014

Yahoo’s homepage continued to be content heavy with large images and huge amounts of news. There wasn’t much design change for Yahoo in 2014.

Google’s homepage design hadn’t changed at all. Although, Google started pushing users to download Google Chrome when they weren’t using it.

Google 2014

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2015

Yahoo 2015

Yahoo seemed to have consolidated a lot of its links to the more links tab on the top navigation tab. The focus continued to be on Ads, News and other widget information on the right side. There were photos from Flickr, featured videos on the Yahoo homepage.

Google 2015

After a long time, Google seemed to have changed the basic layout of its homepage. The top navigation bar was gone and all those links had been packed into the grid icon on the top right. There was a direct link just to Gmail and Image search. The other links below the search bar had been consolidated into a bottom navigation bar.

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General Observations

  1. Right from the beginning, Google had set its logo apart in all the versions of its home page allowing nothing but white space to surround it. Yahoo, on the other hand, had packed its logo with other services almost clouding the logo.
  2. Google knew the value of its homepage and it even removed its own services from its homepage and hid it behind icons. Google is keeping its focus clear and at the same time giving the users what they want — search.
  3. I am not saying that Google isn’t against advertising — Google’s main revenue is its Ad business, but it hadn’t let that interfere with its homepage. All sponsored links appear only when the user searches for something(unlike Yahoo’s sponsored homepage)
  4. Google has always kept the homepage clutter free and Yahoo’s homepage has tried to be so many things and failed at being anything.

There used to be a time when Yahoo was the Internet’s entry point for many people(including me) and now, people hardly use Yahoo’s homepage. Yahoo had a significant two year advantage with Google, but Google’s sharp focus and clean homepage gave it an advantage over Yahoo.

When talking about Google and Yahoo, it is obligatory to mention Marissa Mayer. Google’s first female engineer and Google’s 20th employee, Marissa Mayer, worked at Google from 1999–2012, the period during which Google took the Internet from Yahoo. Marissa Mayer was responsible for Google’s homepage’s simplicity. After Google, Marissa Mayer became Yahoo’s CEO in 2012 and she oversaw a quite a few acquisitions, but hasn’t been able to have an impact on the company’s marketshare. Despite her arrival as CEO, Yahoo’s homepage hasn’t become anything singular and continues to try a lot of things.

This post is just an amateur’s observation of how the two companies’ homepage has evolved over the years.

Image Courtesy — www.domaintools.com and www.internetarchive.org

Thanks for reading :)

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