Which caused yet more revenue growth for Yahoo, and further convinced investors the Internet was worth investing in. But they had the most opaque obstacle in the world between them and the truth: money.When I realized this one day, sitting in my cubicle, I jumped up like Archimedes in his bathtub, except instead of "Eureka! "Both the Internet startups and the Procter & Gambles were doing brand advertising. As long as customers were writing big checks for banner ads, it was hard to take search seriously. Hackers But Yahoo also had another problem that made it hard to change directions.

Led by a large and terrifyingly formidable man called Anil Singh, Yahoo's sales guys would fly out to Procter & Gamble and come back with million dollar orders for banner ad impressions.

The prices seemed cheap compared to print, which was what advertisers, for lack of any other reference, compared them to.

The cubicles were full of programmers writing code, product managers thinking about feature lists and ship dates, support people (yes, there were actually support people) telling users to restart their browsers, and so on, just like a software company. One reason was the way they made money: by selling ads. If anyone at Yahoo considered the idea that they should be a technology company, the next thought would have been that Microsoft would crush them.

In 1995 it was hard to imagine a technology company making money that way. It's hard for anyone much younger than me to understand the fear Microsoft still inspired in 1995.

Technology companies made money by selling their software to users. Imagine a company with several times the power Google has now, but way meaner. Yahoo watched them crush the first hot Internet company, Netscape.

It was reasonable to worry that if they tried to be the next Netscape, they'd suffer the same fate.

But there was another source even more dangerous: other Internet startups. " I said "Oh, ok." Because I didn't realize either how much search traffic was worth. If they had, Google presumably wouldn't have expended any effort on enterprise search.

By 1998, Yahoo was the beneficiary of a de facto Ponzi scheme. One reason they were excited was Yahoo's revenue growth. The startups then used the money to buy ads on Yahoo to get traffic. If circumstances had been different, the people running Yahoo might have realized sooner how important search was.

It was like the algorithm Google uses now to sort ads, but this was in the spring of 1998, before Google was founded.