The Adventures of Yahoo in Minitel: A Bedtime Story
Screech. Beep. Dial tone. “Please get off the phone!” What do those sounds mean, and where did they go? These were the dial-up sounds of the Internet not so long ago. However, this service was not the first of its kind. Before our modern-day internet, the French had something in mind. “Minitel,” they called it. Minitel was its name. It had been around before the World Wide Web even had any fame. Think of Minitel as an early version of the Internet. It didn’t have memes or YouTube, but it was the best of its kind yet. A Minitel monitor was free to the French who desired, and it became so popular that for years it never tired. Many companies soon saw potential in Minitel they could redeem and even continued to pursue it as it was rivaled by the introduction of its HTTP fiend (Borzo 2001). One of these companies was Yahoo, the budding search engine that would jump on the Minitel train shortly before the service bid adieu. So come along and listen until this tale is through. It is time to learn about the legend of 3615 Yahoo.
Before the story begins, there is a secret you should know: it is difficult to find details of Minitel from some time ago. Like many great legends and many lost stories, many details of Minitel’s production are gone from our memories. Even though 3615 Yahoo was one of the newest things Minitel added upon, it was not an exception to this conundrum. Nevertheless, the tale of its beginnings can be pieced together reasonably to form a cool and interesting story:
Once upon a time, in a time and place not so far away, a young search engine named Yahoo loved to play. Yahoo was a cheery lad, as cheery of a lad as a search engine could be, because its existence and purpose were very easy. Since its start in the 90s, the only task it met was to fetch the things that people asked it for from a bustling new place called the Internet. Every day and night, Yahoo would be ready to answer the call of those who asked it for answers big and small. Yahoo would gladly search the land of the Internet for as many answers as it could find and rush back as quickly as it could to its inquirers in time.
Day after day Yahoo did this with contentment and glee, even as it approached the upcoming century, but before the sun set on the decade and the Y2K chaos would ensue, Yahoo’s executives knew that the cheery lad needed something new to do. They pondered over this problem, thinking day and night until finally, a new idea took flight. This idea involved testing the use of their new Yahoo email, and the executives determined that the best place to test it was Minitel (Borzo 2001).
How would they do this? Where could they go? They were not the best people to show Yahoo where the winds of the land Minitel would blow. In 1999, they had acquired Online Anywhere, which would give the executives the power to put Yahoo where they thought it would be fair (Tagliabue 2001). However, this technology certainly wasn’t the answer; they needed to find something else that was much much better. Alas, they would have been stuck in the dumps if they hadn’t found Jet Multimedia, a French telecommunications company, to cheer them up (JET 2001). Jet Multimedia had found a way to bring Yahoo to Minitel, and suddenly the executives knew that all would be well. Through a special technology called Et Hop Jet, Jet Multimedia worked to create the best Yahoo experience on Minitel yet (JET 2001).
The Yahoo executives and Jet Multimedia worked for many unknown days and had to overcome a few bumps along the way. One of these problems they found was the cost (Borzo 2001). Would creating a paid service cause their business to be lost? They determined that this would be okay. Even though Minitel screens were free, you had to pay to use them anyway. Another problem occurred with the symbols. Typing email addresses on a keyboard without the @ sign would not be simple (Tagliabue 2001). In the end, they found a solution whose details cannot be found. Nevertheless, it got their project off the ground.
So, in January of 2001, the executives showed Yahoo its new secondary home; 3615 Yahoo became a new place where the young search engine could roam (JET 2001). No longer was it bound to only the Internet where search results were all it could achieve. Now with the power of Minitel, Yahoo could give people emails that even their grandmothers could read (Tagliabue 2001). On Minitel, the young search engine did its best to thrive until 2012 when Minitel gave its last and died (Crumley 2012).
So even though “The Adventures of Yahoo in Minitel” is a sad story, it can help one to see what led to its small moment of glory. The ideas of the executives and the work of Jet Multimedia’s team held up Yahoo on Minitel as a thing of great esteem. It wasn’t easy; they found various problems along the way, but the story of 3615 Yahoo can still work to inspire developers around the world today.
- Borzo, Jeanette. 2001. “Aging Gracefully.” The Wall Street Journal, October 15, 2001. https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB1002833232270767240
- Crumley, Bruce. 2012. “France Bids Adieu to Minitel, Its Internet Forerunner.” Time, June 27, 2012. https://world.time.com/2012/06/27/france-bids-adieu-to-minitel-its-internet-forerunner/
- “JET MULTIMEDIA A DEVELOPPE LE SERVICE MINITEL 3615 YAHOO.” PRLine, January 25, 2001. LexisNexis Academic.
- Tagliabue, John. 2001. “Online Cohabitation: Internet and Minitel; Videotex System in France Proves Unusually Resilient.” New York Times, June 2, 2001. https://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/02/business/online-cohabitation-internet-minitel-videotex-system-france-proves-unusually.html