Back when Yahoo had an exclamation point in its name and the internet was called the “information superhighway,” a highway billboard along I-80 crowned San Francisco as the global center of the dotcom boom. That was in 1999, and the Yahoo billboard has (mostly) remained there since, undergoing a few facelifts. and enduring a brief disappearance in the early 2010s. That billboard is disappearing again, as the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Yahoo is taking the billboard down.
Redditors went nuts Thursday upon noticing that the latest version of the billboard, a simpler purple incarnation that lacked the retro sputnik lighting elements, is in the process of being dismantled. “I’m looking forward to it being replaced by a Shen Yun ad,” one commenter quipped.
Yahoo Billboard, signing off… for now. Pause this video to see one of the lines that appeared in SF. Stay tuned for more to come! pic.twitter.com/lU45gT6s29
— Yahoo Mail – Bring joy to your inbox (@yahoomail) March 20, 2019
For their part, the Yahoo Mail Twitter account cryptically tweeted that “Yahoo Billboard, signing off … for now,” and “Stay tuned for more to come!” In other words, Yahoo does still exist and are presumably planning to run another promotion in the same spot.
The billboard industry trade publication OOH Today ran a listing for the billboard space in December, saying that the “billboard is available April of 2019” and that Yahoo was “not renewing.”
This is what the Yahoo! Home page looked like in 1999, when that billboard went up. Back then, the search engine’s big competitors were Altavista, Excite, and Netscape, and some scrappy little upstart called Google was barely a year old. The billboard immediately joined the SoMa neon Coca-Cola sign as a recognized San Francisco favorite, and Yahoo! was the leading news and media site on the world wide web.
By the time something called “Gmail” happened, Yahoo was already badly in decline. The old neon version of the sign was taken down in 2011, a time when Yahoo was laying off workers by the thousands. The company brought the billboard back in 2015 to coincide with its 20th anniversary celebration, and its old-school retro look was modernized with a sleek purple background and a digital message board.
The SFEgotist has a fascinating history of the Yahoo billboard and interviewed its creators Steve Stone and Robert Boyce. “I do recall after a year or two that we had to get it all rewired,” Boyce recalled. “We didn’t expect that it would be up for years. We were really thinking a year or two.”