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updated 1/23/2012 10:48:57 AM ET 2012-01-23T15:48:57

Last week, Jerry Yang left the board of Yahoo, a multibillion-dollar company that he and buddy David Filo started in 1994 — long before “dotcom” or “Google” were words — as just a Web page with links to other Web pages. Yang’s exit doesn’t mark the end of Yahoo, but it’s another sign of rough times. He was pushed out as CEO back in 2009 and replaced by Carol Bartz, who was fired in September — both due to so-so financial performance.

With so many people searching on Google and socializing on Facebook, does anyone really need Yahoo anymore?

Actually, Yahoo’s a lot bigger and more important in people’s lives than the business journalists would have you think. If it were to go away some day, there would be many things to miss. Here are five of them.

News

On the home page for many Internet-goers, Yahoo news is by far the biggest news site in the U.S. — well ahead of CNN, MSNBC or the New York Times. Pulling in articles from wire services and other sites, it offers a hodgepodge of news from the serious to the silly. Hardly highbrow, it nevertheless captures the zeitgeist and is a good place to see what America is talking about.

Technically a separate site, Yahoo Sports is a behemoth news source in itself, dwarfing ESPN and other contenders.

Email

Google’s Gmail is certainly hip, and generally more popular with younger users (20-somethings often skip the “@gmail.com” part when they give their address. Like, what else is there?) But with 270 million users, Yahoo is at least twice as big as Gmail.  And stats from just last week show Yahoo Mail as the fourth most popular of all U.S. websites (behind Facebook, Google and YouTube). The company crunches that data into a fascinating, almost psychedelic real-time visualization of traffic and topics around the world.

Fact is, lots of people are not in their 20s. Yahoo was once the hip email to get, and those who have had it for years are likely to hang onto it, rather than endure the hassle of switching to a new address.

Photos

One of the original social networks, Flickr (long owned by Yahoo) doesn’t just let people post photos, it encourages people to talk about them. You could “favorite” a photo on Flickr long before you could like anything on Facebook (long before there was a Facebook, in fact). You can also comment and add people as friends to see what they are shooting. Many people also join photo hobbyist groups that meet both online and in the real world.

Facebook has way more photos (about 140 billion versus about 6 billion), but of lower quality — limited to less than a megapixel. Twelve-megapixel photos are no problem for Flickr. And it’s still a place where “serious” photographers post their stuff.

Video

While Facebook dominates in the sheer volume of photos, Yahoo is ahead in video — trailing only Google (owner of YouTube) and Vevo. It’s way bigger than Hulu. What are people watching? Last fall, Yahoo made a deal with ABC News to share news programs, and ABC News will even produce some original shows for Yahoo. And two weeks ago, Yahoo scored a new animated series produced by Tom Hanks called "Electric City."

Answers

It’s far from TED Conversations or Quora, but Yahoo’s question-and-answer site is awfully popular. As much a social site as a utility, Answers isn’t far behind Twitter in traffic and is way busier than Google+. How helpful are the answers? For actually providing information, not very. But for entertainment, obviously they’re pretty good. The most-popular question last night, for example, was “Mushrooms? Peppers? Onions? Or Cabbage? Which from this list do you like better?”

 

© 2012 TechNewsDaily

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