As Jerry Yang Steps Down, Remembering The Yahoo Priority Queue


With Jerry Yang stepping down from Yahoo’s board of directors today, I couldn’t help but think back to one of my first encounters with him, a fond memory shared by the shrinking pool of veteran internet marketers. It was the day Jerry started the Yahoo Priority Queue.

Yahoo The Gatekeeper

Think of how big and powerful Google seems today, in the world of search. Back in 1995, Yahoo was that way. It was the “gatekeeper,” the company that some people wondered if it needed to be regulated, as Yahoo seemed to have so much control over where people went on the internet.

Getting listed in Yahoo involved filing a manual submission form. Once this went in, you could wait days, weeks or even months in hopes that a Yahoo editor would review and approve your submission. And you prayed that they didn’t change the title and description you submitted for your site, because dropping one word could make you effectively invisible for search results on those terms.

Submission Issues

Complaints about delays getting into Yahoo grew and grew, especially on one of the most notable mailing lists at the time, the Internet Marketing discussion mailing list, also known as I-Net Marketing, moderated by Glenn Fleischman.

The list no longer exists. The archives are gone. But I have some of the old posts, including one from that memorable day on November 10, 1995, when Jerry Yang dropped by.

Along Comes Jerry!

Jerry had heard about the complaints, and he proposed a solution. He created what became known as the Yahoo Priority Queue, a way that those using the instructions he provided could get a guaranteed seven day turnaround time for being reviewed.

Jerry’s post from back then:

hi internet marketers,

this is jerry yang, one of the co-founders of yahoo.

i have been following the thread on this mailing list regarding yahoo submissions, and am fully aware of various trouble that participants of this list have in getting their entries listed.

we at yahoo are trying the best we can to come up with a fair and systematic way to include sites. rest assured we do not selectively ignore submissions, there are just not enough hours in the day!

i like to propose a system, to be tried out only on this mailing list.

since many of you on this list are providers of internet services, we believe that you are a very internet savvy group, and we like to target your submissions for better service!

we like to introduce the “yahoo priority queue”. we will post (exclusively on lists like this) a “password” to be used for yahoo submissions. that password will enable your entry (entries) to be serviced in a seven (7) day turn around [we will look at your site within that time, but we still reserve the right not to put you in”. (hopefully much sooner).

there is still NO CHARGE for this priority service: in return, we ask that you provide quality submissions, following the guidelines provided by yahoo. we also would appreciate if you link back to yahoo wherever appropriate in your site(s).

please exercise caution and judgement when telling others about this passwd, since doing so will make the queue longer and we’ll essentially result in the same situation as we have now.

here are the guidelines we ask you to observe:

1. submit no more than five 5 entries per week/organization in the priority queue.

2. read this is our FAQ for adding – please read all of this, especially #13 (detailed instructions).

** if all the priority submissions follow this guideline, it’ll speed up the service rate for everyone involved.

** since many of you will be submitting companies or products, please read the part of the faq regarding difference between “products and services” and “companies”.

3. do not abuse this queue – your entries won’t be serviced if you repeatedly abuse the passwd.

4. the password: when completing the online web form for submitting your link, provide us in the email field the following: your email address followed by “(yahoo)” [without the quotes, but with the parentheses”. for example, email: (yahoo) would qualify as acceptable.

5. we will CHANGE THE PASSWORD if we think the list is overly full, or if the quality isn’t what we expect. this is a trial program in which we are trying provide a better service to those in the internet marketing community, so please think twice before telling others about this, and PLEASE submit quality links.

6. legal stuff: as yahoo is providing this service for free, it is not obligated to provide any service if it so chooses. yahoo also reserves full editorial control over where links are placed. we are not under any legal obligation to provide the service.

again, this is totally experimental, we hope that it serves this community well. thanks for all the support we have gotten over the past months, and we hope this is an effective way of continuing to provide a valuable net resource.

thanks again, we at yahoo are truly appreciative of all the support we have been getting, especially from this community. we hope we can return the favor by helping you!

jerry yang

As you can see, it was all Jerry’s now-trademark style of writing in lowercase. One of the most amazing things about the priority queue was how tightly held the information remained. People never spoke of it publicly. It was information that seemed to be passed along from one vet to another, if the newcomer was deemed worthy.

The priority queue became outdated when Yahoo introduced a paid review system in 1999, Yahoo Business Express. Later, the importance of the Yahoo Directory became outdated, as results from crawling the web took over.

In fact, looking today at the Yahoo Directory, while it still supposedly accepts submissions, none of the submit forms seem to work.

How times have changed. I sure don’t miss the days of delayed submissions, or having your entire site’s chances of ranking well depend on 25 carefully chosen and approved words. But I do miss the days when the co-founder of a huge internet company would drop by to help out a bunch of marketers.


About The Author

Danny Sullivan was a journalist and analyst who covered the digital and search marketing space from 1996 through 2017. He was also a cofounder of Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land, Marketing Land, MarTech Today and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo and MarTech events. He retired from journalism and Third Door Media in June 2017. You can learn more about him on his personal site & blog He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.



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