A Retrospective On 6 Years Of Yahoo! News

I joined Yahoo! in May of 1999.  I had my pick of either Y! News or Y! Sweepstakes.   Lucky for me, I picked Y! News

Very soon, we are about to launch biggest redesign of Yahoo! News ever and I wanted to look back at what I remember of the history.

As I understood it here is the technical timeline of Y! News

  • Someone named Lo?o (ask me for his name) was one of the first 5 engineers in Yahoo! and he was not a good programmer (from what I hear) but works hard and created the first version of Y! News using files, directories and lots of find and grep commands
    Eng. Diagram: Wire -> files -> find+grep+scp -> static html files
  • Brad C. join Y! shortly and filo gave him a small desk and told him to learn perl.  Brad C. was very eager and learned well.  He created version #2 of Y! News using key/value db files keyed off of timestamp and pushed out static html files to dailynews.yahoo.com every 2-3 minutes or so.  Back then the data came from AP, Reuteres and email providers.  AP and Reuters came in from satellite feeds into modem banks which connected machines via 9600 baud serial cables.  Brad C. was good,
    and he created system from scratch and things worked well.
  • Then things got complicated around 1999 or so, another producer Brad R. came on board and he was  one bad ass producer.  He actually wanted videos and photos to be attached to news stories.  Brad C. was very brave and built a pretty good system that parses html and inserts html comments and inserts photos after a story is published
  • In 1999 I joined Brad and I learned the system quickly and we hacked away at his db file system happily, it was working.  I moved our news servers to our very own p*.news.sc5 machines.  There was another engineer Paul B. and a Henry and they worked on the email system and some edit tools.  But they found better things and moved on.  Then Ron P. joined and he was a big pain in the ass :-) he actually cared about quality of HTML and stopped us from launching code because it didn’t work!  WTF :-) Ron would go on to be the best technical producer on this product.
  • Year 2001, I was getting sick of the current system and heard about this thing call Jake and wanted to use it for photo slideshows, I got the thing installed and running on MYSQL + 2 feed machines and moved all our photos into this system and voila we had photo slideshows, Ron and I would create whatever slideshows we wanted and had fun doing it.   Then…… Sept 11, 2001.  At this point we had about 16 machines and filo called and john r and I beg and borrowed machines from finance and other retired machines and we had the sept 11 slideshows up and running and had akamai helped us offload the limitless demand.  We survived that day and proved that the slideshow was invaluable  for Yahoo! News
  • Year 2001, Brad C. decided to leave for Y! Shopping.  I installed Jake and moved all of our News into Jake and for the first time we can actually combine news from different sources into one page.. We had 16 machines.  Jake was good for News, for the first time I didn’t have to touch HTML code anymore, it was all up to the producers
  • Lots of things were launched.  Most Popular, User Ratings, Videos, Elections, AP Premium content, Message Board, Conversations, Email To Friend, lots and lots of edit filtering tools to give Yahoo! a human touch while still being very fast to publish.  Things were very dynamic.  Brad R. left us around this time and Ron and I were the primary worker bees.  Year 2002 Raghu joined and he was young but able to take directions and learned very quickly.  I was on pager 24×7 when problems happened, life was hard but very fun and rewarding.  I had to be 30 minutes away from a computer 24×7.
  • Year 2002, Jeff Bi. joined and he was the calm producer that brought a sense of calmness to the team.
  • 2002, Jeff Bo joined and he was one bad ass as well.  Coming from Y! Music (Launch).  He was technical superior to me and was very diciplined.  By this time we had about 30 web servers and he and I were doing operations and development and we had to make Y! News scalable and robust and able to handle nuclear disasters in the west or east coast (not both coasts) . Year 2003 we created a Y! News system that can completely switch over in < 15 minutes to any coast end-to-end.
  • Year 2004 Marc S. joined and he was a bad ass operations guy.  stablized our system and scaled us to 100 machines.  Year 2004 Jay J. joined in operations and he was a bad ass and stablized our system even more.  I finally get some sleep after 4 years
  • End of 2004 and beginning 2005, Glenc, Umesh joined Y! News as engineers and were the workhorses that brought us the current v10 (10th anniversary of Y!) http://beta.news.yahoo.com/
  • Beginning of year 2005, news operations got a few more people. Eric and Paul were the latest.
  • I finally got off 24×7 pager and able to sleep without a pager.  I could say that I didn’t contribute more than 50% to a news project, I am able to lean on my co workers, I am able to not work after hours, I am able to travel more than 30 minutes aways from a computer because someone else can handle problems for Y! News.  I am able to take a vacation without being on call in a foreign country.

Thank you Glen, Umesh, Jeff, Jay, Marc for joining and you guys are bad bad asses.

I’m very very excited about the v10 of Y! News

http://beta.news.yahoo.com/
http://news.yahoo.com

People ask me why I come to work

  1. It’s a once in a lifetime chance to be able to touch the lifes of 30 millions users each month
  2. The $$
  3. Working for a company that even my grandmom knows the name of.
  4. When my 4 year old (Kate) grows up and Yahoo! is still around and I can tell her that I was there. I was there in the beginning.

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