Skip to main content

Jerry Yang on Navigating the World Wide Web

Yang is co-founder of YAHOO, a directory to the World Wide Web. YAHOO has an online site, as well as a companion book. YAHOO is one of the most popular sites on the Web. Users can access YAHOO, once in the Web at Yahoo's book is YAHOO! Unplugged.


Other segments from the episode on May 5, 1997

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, May 5, 1997: Interview with John Gottman; Interview with Jerry Yang; Commentary on psychics.


Date: MAY 05, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 050501np.217
Head: Marriage Success
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

It doesn't sound very romantic when couples discuss having to work on their relationships. But let's face it, a lot of couples need to work on how they handle conflict.

That's where my guest, Dr. John Gottman, comes in. He's spent the past 25 years observing how couples interact and analyzing why some relationships last and others fall apart.

Gottman directs the Seattle Marital and Family Institute and is a professor of psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle. He also runs weekend workshops for couples, which he calls "the marriage survival kit."

His books include "Why Marriages Fail and Succeed" and "The Heart of Parenting: Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child."

I asked Dr. Gottman what he's looking for when he observes how couples interact.

JOHN GOTTMAN, DIRECTOR, SEATTLE MARITAL AND FAMILY INSTITUTE, AND AUTHOR, "WHY MARRIAGES SUCCEED OR FAIL": Well, actually the only thing I really bring to the whole question is just one that, and that -- if I can tell you a story.

When I was a beginning assistant professor, I was interested in the problem of kids who didn't have any friends. And I found that there was a psychologist who had developed a program to help kids make friends.

And I called him up and I asked him for information about the program and would he send me the materials he had developed. And then I asked him, "How did you develop these materials?"

And he said, "Well, I sat around with a couple of graduate students and we tried to imagine what it was like to be four years old. And we figured out how to make friends."

And I did some research after that, which took me about ten years to find out how children really do make friends.

Turned out that he was teaching children to do things like go over to other kids and say, "Hi, my name is Harold, can I play with you?" And that turned out, in the research I did later, to be the perfect way to get rejected.


GROSS: Yeah.

GOTTMAN: So, you know, the only thing I bring to this whole thing is really trying to find out what it is that real couples do whose, you know, marriages are going well, you know, marriages are stable and satisfying, rather than trying to assume that I know.

We do things like, you know, in Seattle we have 130 newlyweds we've been following for the past eight years. And we also study couples who have been married a long time, two groups of couples in their forties and one group of couples in their sixties, and try to see, you know, just what do these people actually do to make their marriages work.

GROSS: Now, how do you study this?

GOTTMAN: A variety of ways. We really try to do it just about every way we can.

I have an apartment laboratory in Seattle where couples live for 24 hours. And they don't have any instructions. They just come there in the morning with a bag of groceries and they read the Sunday paper and they eat together and watch television and work, do what they normally would do at home.

We also have them talk about...

GROSS: Wait. But you're running surveillance on them while they do this, right?

GOTTMAN: Right. There's four cameras pointed...


They wear these halter monitors that measure electrocardiograms. And so -- and every time they urinate we take a sample of the urine and get stress hormones out of the assays and take blood from them at the end and look at their immune system. But, after about 45 minutes, people are really kind of behaving naturally.

We actually know that they never totally behave naturally. They're a little nicer to each other when there are cameras there than they would be at home. We've actually recorded them at home, and there's a lot more upset and nastiness that goes on for longer periods of time when they're home.

GROSS: So, if somebody says, dear, you know, I really hate it when you leave the dishes for me to do, then you're measuring the stress hormones, blood pressure, heart beat...

GOTTMAN: Exactly.

GROSS: ... in both of the members of a couple when this conversation continues.

GOTTMAN: Yeah. That's right. That's right.

And then we show them their videotapes and ask them to tell us, you know, what were you thinking, what were you feeling, what do you think your partner was thinking and feeling? We interview them about these moments.

And then we, you know, we record their facial muscles and code exactly what emotional expressions are on their face, what's going on in the voice, what's going on in the body, what they're saying. So, we actually have observers there coding people's behavior, categorizing every small behavior that they engage in.

And then we interview them about the history of their relationship -- how they met, how they think about their marriage, and, you know, various difficult times and how they get through difficult times, try to get their philosophy and their, you know, own narratives about their marriage.

Very much like Studs Terkel would do, you know, when he sits with somebody in their attic and asks them, well, tell me about this doll, you know. In fact, we model a lot of our interviewing on Studs Terkel's methods.

GROSS: When you are doing one of these marital interviews, does each member of the couple contradict the other in describing the marital history?

GOTTMAN: Happens sometimes, yeah. Most of the time they kind of complete each other's sentences and they're, you know, they present really sort of a united front.

But a lot of times you'll find one person says, well, you know, this is a very difficult period for us. And the other person says, well, for you it was a difficult period, for me it was a great period. And so, that person is really saying, you know, we're not really a unit, we're very different from each other. So, it does happen a lot.

GROSS: Do the couples watch the video tapes that you make of them?

GOTTMAN: Yes, they do. And we ask them to sort of narrate those video tapes and tell us what was going on in their minds, what were they thinking about, what were they feeling during those tapes? And we try to find out sort of what's different about what the observers see and what they perceive.

GROSS: And what is often different?

GOTTMAN: Well, there's a very interesting phenomenon that happens in some marriages. You know, some of the time the observers will say, well, this comment was really quite neutral, you know, it wasn't, you know, it wasn't even emotional. And yet the spouse will perceive it as very provocative, you know.

Like, for example, you know, a wife might say something like, you know, you really aren't supposed to run the microwave oven with no food in it. And yet the partner will say, don't tell me what to do, you know. Did you read the manual? You never read manuals. That's your problem.


And some of the times, you know, you know, that wife might say something like, what's the matter with you? You're not supposed to run the microwave with no food in it. And the husband will say, oh, yeah, OK, thanks, I didn't know that.


So, you have this discrepancy between the way observers see it and the way the partners see it.

That turns out to be a very critical dimension because if you have a positive perspective, you see these sort of irritable kind of statements, you take the irritability as if the statement were in italics. You know, you say, oh, this must be important to my partner.

If you've got that positive perspective, it turns out to predict an ability to repair conflict when it doesn't go well. And if you don't have that positive perspective, if you have more of a negative perspective, it predicts in fact that your ability to resolve conflict will deteriorate over time.

GROSS: Hmm. So, people get deeper and deeper into those patterns?

GOTTMAN: Exactly. Exactly.

GROSS: When somebody sees this on the video tape, or when you point it out to them, how easy is it to repair?

GOTTMAN: It really isn't easy to change the positive or negative perspective. You have to do a whole bunch of things that really underlie these.

And that's one of the things that we've discovered in the past couple of years is that, you know, there's been a focus, a very strong focus on the resolution of conflict as being the way that couples really can get close and make their marriages work.

And we've discovered that really that's wrong, that in fact the everyday interaction that couples have with one another -- and there really are three things that form the basis of this positive perspective, that makes them able to solve problems.

One of them is just kind of knowing one another, knowing things about one another, and it really has to do with -- well, we actually have a board game that couples play in our workshops where we ask them things like, who is your spouse's least favorite relative? Or, what side of the bed does you spouse prefer to sleep on? And a lot of people don't know things like that.

GROSS: So, what you're saying there is one of the really most aspects of a successful relationship is paying attention to the person you're in the relationship with.

GOTTMAN: Exactly. And knowing things about them. So, if you opened up the skull of some guys, you know, you'd find a lot of brain cells allocated to the relationship and the partner. And other guys, you know, you'd find, you know, very few.

And you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see this. When we asked people how they met, you know, some guys are saying things like, oh, you know, it was, I remember the night, we met at this dance. And, you know, she was wearing a yellow dress and the band was playing "As Time Goes By." And I thought, this is a slow song, I could ask her to dance, but then I found my feet were glued to the floor, my heart was beating fast. And then she came over, asked me to dance.

And you ask another guy, how did you and your wife meet, and he'll say, Anna, how did we meet?


You know, it's very, very clear differences between people. So, that's the first step out of three for building this positive perspective.

GROSS: And what's the next one?

GOTTMAN: Well, the next one is really the fondness and admiration system. It's really how much affection there is and how much respect there is in this relationship.

And some people really, you know, spontaneously say things like, boy, you know, there's one thing I really admire about Jane, you know, she's really got a lot of guts. I mean, she had this boss who was really domineering, and Jane just went in and told her what she thought. And, boy, I would never do that, you know. And she's done this with our son, too, and she's gone and, you know, confronted the teacher who was really giving him a hard time.

And, you know, some guys never say things like that. And we find that this fondness and admiration system is really critical in keeping romance going in the relationship.

GROSS: And the third?

GOTTMAN: And the third is what I call the emotional bank account. It's really, really doesn't have much to do with emotional events. It's these everyday sort of mundane events that happen between people who are in a close relationship.

And, you know, it could be something like one person is brushing their teeth in the morning and is in a big hurry. And then the partner comes in and says, I just had a disturbing dream.

And then, you know, you can either turn toward your partner and say something like, I'm in a real big hurry, but what'd you dream? And then you get a sort of a rundown of the dream. And then later on you think about it and then you talk about it at dinner. Or you can just say, well, you know, I'm in a big hurry, I really can't talk about this.

It's not that turning away is necessarily hostile, it's just that over time there is a characteristic either of turning toward or turning away. So, couples who are heading for divorce, you know, 60 to 80 percent of the time they're turning away from one another. And couples whose marriages are going very well, 60 to 80 percent of the time they're turning toward one another.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is John Gottman. He's a professor of psychology at the University of Washington, and he directs the Seattle Marital and Family Institute.

Let's take a short break, and then we'll talk some more. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is John Gottman, and he directs the Seattle Marital and Family Institute.

OK, so, to sum up here, you're saying good marriages, they're not about how you handle the big conflicts. More about day-to-day life, how you handle day-to-day life, how you handle your affection for each other, your reactions to each other.

GOTTMAN: Exactly.

GROSS: Now, say someone has pointed out to you that you don't express fondness very clearly. Even if you feel it, you're not verbally expressing it. Say that's just your character type. Is that something that you can really change in a way that's going help your spouse feel more confident about your feelings?

GOTTMAN: One of the things that we work on that's sort of related to this is that, you know, we look at how people resolve problems. It turns out that, you know, when you select a relationship, when you select a person to be close to, you automatically are selecting a set of unresolvable perpetual problems that you'll never resolve.


And that, you know, if you married somebody else or you got into a relationship with somebody else, you'd have a different set of perpetual problems you'll never resolve.

And some couples sort of establish a dialogue with these problems. And actually, it turned out when we analyzed this that about 56 percent of all the problems that couples had were of this kind, where they had a dialogue with problems like he was not as affectionate as she would like. Or, you know, maybe he was a loner and she was very gregarious. Or, you know, he was very neat and she was, you know, really untidy.

This is a problem that they'll have their whole lives together. And some couples kind of come to a peace with that. It's not that they're happy about it. They have a kind of dialogue with it. It's like it's a soccer ball between them that they kick around every now and then.

And there's a lot of acceptance and understanding and humor and amusement about the problem, even though they're actually trying to change it all the time, make it a little better. And that, the thing you described, is very much like that.

And the problem becomes when you get really a lot of pain around these problems. I'll give you an example of this, you know. In this case you get kind of a gridlock situation.

And one example was a husband who wanted to spend more time with his friends. And his wife was very upset about this because what the friends did was they went to topless bars, and he flirted with women. And he couldn't understand why his wife was bothered by that. And this kept being a source of tremendous pain between the two of them.

So, one of the things that we need to do, and we try to do in our workshops and in the therapy, is to move these gridlock conflicts that cause a great deal of pain and suffering to dialogue with perpetual problems.

In other words, the problem doesn't go away, it's never gonna go away, but with marriages that are working well and with longer relationships, long-term relationships, people kind of learn to accept the differences between them and live with them, even though they're still trying to change them slightly and make them better over time.

GROSS: You know, you're talking about the importance of talking about your differences in the relationship. But even the threshold at which you're able and willing to talk about a difference is a difference in the relationship.

GOTTMAN: Absolutely.

GROSS: I mean, often one partner really likes to talk about the relationship and work on the relationship...


GROSS: ... and the other partner hates stuff like that, hates those talks.

GOTTMAN: That's right. Yeah, we even have a name for it. It's called the "pursuer-distancer pattern." And usually.

GROSS: That's what I call it -- no.


GOTTMAN: You know, one person pursues the issue and the other one tries to become distance from it.

GROSS: Right. Right.

GOTTMAN: Yeah. And usually it's the woman who is the pursuer and the male who's the distancer. That's usually the situation, although it does vary a great deal.

This is characteristic of most marriages, although the problem gets accentuated when there is a lot of continued hostility in the marriage.

GROSS: Well, when you're working with a couple and one person likes to talk about the relationship and the other person hates to talk about the relationship, what advice do you give the couple about how to deal with talking about the relationship?

GOTTMAN: Usually the one who wants to talk about the relationship wins. You know, it's sort of like a situation like the neater person usually wins in these conflicts about neatness. The person who has more concerns is usually the one who wins because the important dimension is being able to respond emotionally to your partner and to have some kind of emotional connection.

And what really becomes an issue is if, you know, the person who really wants to talk feels unresponded to and becomes kind of desperate in this attempt to really be understood and to really have a connection, an emotional connection with a partner. So, usually the one who doesn't like to talk about it comes up a bit in, you know, in their willingness to talk about it.

GROSS: Well, you make an interesting distinction between a complaint and a criticism, and the way complaints and criticisms are verbalized. What are the issues there?

GOTTMAN: Well, the difference is that when you complain, you're really talking about something you're upset about, and it's not really kind of a global blaming and attack on your partner's personality. So, if I say to my wife something like, you know, I'm really upset that you talked about your day during dinner and you never asked me anything about my day, that would be a complaint.

But if I then add, you know, what's wrong with you, I mean what kind of a person would do something like that, why do you treat me this way? Then, it's gonna make my partner really defensive. It's kind of like I'm saying, you know, there's something wrong with her character, something wrong with her personality.

And she's gotta say, well, you know, I listen to you a lot of times, and sometimes you don't listen to me. And then it gets very defensive.

GROSS: So, what advice would you have about how to make -- state a complaint without it escalating into criticism that leads to defensiveness and more anger?

GOTTMAN: Well, we have a thing that we teach couples to do which we call "soften start-up." You know, the way they start up a complaint really matters.

One of the things that's real important in this is sort of the way you say things and how you present things.

Like, for example, I could, you know, let's say I've been feeling pretty distant from my wife, you know, I can say you are so emotionally distant from me, you're emotionally unavailable, you know, and I'm fed up with it.

Or I could say, you know, I've really been missing you lately. And you know last week when we were on the couch and we were kissing, how could we do more of that, you know, I really miss that, you know, in our day. We're getting so stressed that we're not really doing that.

So, in a way it really communicates the same thing, but one way of presenting a complaint is pretty flattering...

GROSS: Yeah. Yeah.

GOTTMAN: ... you know, it's really saying, you know, I want more of you, you know, I really like you, I really want more of you. And the other one's saying, there's something wrong with you. So, they really look for, you know, a way of saying it that softens it, makes the partner less defensive.

GROSS: You've worked with people who are violent, with couples in which one of the partners is abusive. Do you think people like that can change?

GOTTMAN: Well, you know, for the last eight years, Neal Jacobson, my colleague, and I have been studying these violent marriages. And, you know, we have found that over time in most couples the physical violence declines significantly, it really does decline. And we found that in a number of these marriages the physical violence will end.

Unfortunately, in those cases we've also found when we analyze their video tapes that when the physical violence declines, the emotional abuse increases.

So, if you look at both emotional abuse and physical abuse, we only found one couple out of 62 couples where over time both the emotional abuse and the physical abuse ended. So, I'm pretty pessimistic about these things going away by themselves.

GROSS: What qualifies as emotional abuse?

GOTTMAN: There are two forms of it that we discovered. One of them is really just humiliating the partner in public, doing things like forcing the partner to accept sexual practices that are repugnant to the partner, controlling the partner's life and threatening to destroy property and pets. These are, you now, these are the dimensions of emotional abuse.

There's a second form that is even more insidious that we call "gaslighting," which comes from the movie "Gaslight" with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, where he's married to her and he's trying to convince her that she's insane.

This kind of insidious kind of undermining of the woman's world view is even more controlling and even more powerful than standard forms of emotional abuse. And I think we saw it in the Steinberg-Nussbaum case where, you know, Steinberg really completely controlled Nussbaum's consciousness about how to see the world.

These men are often very charismatic for the women that they're involved with. And this gaslighting thing is very common of abusive men who are really jealous and really have this terror of being abandoned.

GROSS: Dr. John Gottman directs the Seattle Marital and Family Institute. He'll be back with us in the second half of our show.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Back with John Gottman, director of the Seattle Marital and Family Institute. He's spent the past 25 years observing how couples interact and working with couples who are having difficulty dealing with conflicts.

When we left off, we were talking about abusive relationships. I asked Dr. Gottman what he's learned about why some men abuse women in order to control them.

GOTTMAN: They really have a lot of trouble connecting with a woman and I think really having intimate relationships in general. And in some ways the conflict becomes the center of the way of connecting to the partner. It's, you know, it is the way.

I mean one of the things that's really very interesting about all of these violent couples is they don't have very much fun. I mean they don't do stuff like go to the zoo, you know, or go to the circus on the weekends and, you know, have a lot of laughs and kid around or sit around and, you know, in a warm bath tub and, you know, and drink wine together.

A lot of times the way they meet, they way they sort of join each other, is through the arguments and through the conflict.

And for these guys, a lot of what they're doing is trying to work out real major childhood trauma where they've been, you know, abandoned in the case of these guys who really fear abandonment and are very jealous or they've been very controlled as children and really abused and they've somehow decided, either consciously or unconsciously, that they're never gonna be controlled again.

So, that's, you know, I don't know if that's a good answer to your question. It's not really that they're -- I don't think they're really thinking out this. It's more sort of automatic, this, you know, this control in a relationship.

GROSS: So, when you're working with a violent couple, are you likely to say to them, you'd be better off splitting up, this relationship is unlikely to be repaired?

GOTTMAN: Yes. You know, unfortunately you can't really say that because what that winds up doing is really alienating the woman and making her feel like she's nuts for staying with this guy, you know, and there's something wrong with her for continuing to be in this relationship.

Part of what we discovered is that what keeps women in these relationships is they love these guys and they identify with their struggles and they really sort of are on their side. And through this process of really sort of being on the side of these guys and loving them, they really have developed a dream about what this guy could become.

And until they're ready to give up that dream, they're gonna stay in that relationship, they're gonna forgive the men for doing what they've done to them, even -- I mean some of these women are suffering internal organ damage and broken bones and, you know, really very serious violence, and they're still staying in there.

But there comes a point -- when we studied the women who really successfully divorced these guys -- that the women give up the dream. A lot of times it takes a near-death experience in a violent episode to make a woman do that.

GROSS: Do you feel optimistic that people are capable of change and therefore that relationships that are having trouble are capable of being repaired?

GOTTMAN: Yes. I feel very optimistic.

And, I mean, in fact, you know, Terry, I think of myself as very much like the 15th-century Portuguese map makers who were mapping the Atlantic Ocean for people like Christopher Columbus. You know, we scientists who study relationships are really like these map makers. We're finding that there really are things we can learn about relationships, that, you know, we can develop some kind of a map.

Marriage doesn't come with a manual and babies don't come with a manual, so a lot of what I think is necessary is just education. People have to know things about what's gonna happen to them when they, you know, when they first get married, and then they become parents and they have a baby on their hands, you know.

And 75 percent of all couples after the baby's born, three months after the baby's born, experience a precipitous drop in marital happiness that leads to divorce. Half of all the divorces occur in the first seven years of marriage.

Now, what is it that people can do to buffer themselves from this drop in marital? And we know the answer now, particularly for guys. You know, the emotionally intelligent husband is a reality.

And so it seems like men can learn about how to be in relationships. And the relationship can have this knowledge, and I think it can buffer marriages from this, the sort of natural shocks that happen, you know, as people try to have a relationship over time, a close relationship.

GROSS: When do you think it's too late to save a marriage?

GOTTMAN: Well, I think it's too late to save a marriage when the fondness and admiration system is dead, you know. If it's just a glowing ember, we can fan it into a flame. But if it's gone, if people no longer have respect for one another, if there's no affection there, then I don't think there's much you can do.

GROSS: You started studying relationships back in the '70s, right?

GOTTMAN: Correct, right.

GROSS: So, you've seen the results of the women's movement over the decades.


GROSS: Do you think the women's movement has changed the relationships that you've been studying?

GOTTMAN: Absolutely. I think it's the single major thing that's happened worldwide that has affected families everywhere. I think it's the most important change that has taken place in families.

Not that it's happening everywhere, you know, there are some places really resistant to it. But in the United States, the loss of the breadwinner role as women have entered the work force and not only have made some money, but also have had jobs that are meaningful, has been really very big, it's really affected men in particular.

And men are casting around, you know, really looking everywhere for how to be in families, how to be a good husband, how to be a good father. I think men are lost.

GROSS: Do you think that you're able to use the results of your work at home? I mean can you apply what you know scientifically to your own marriage?



And my wife tries. So, yeah, we, you know, find that, you know, once, once we've learned something and, you know, it seems to work and make sense, that we can really use it with one another and it's very effective.

Some of the times, you know, I wish the information had been available years before, you know. We could have saved ourselves a lot of pain.

But I think, you know, one of the things that I'm trying to do in doing this research is to find ways of changing people, you know, helping people change their relationships, that really are not that hard to do.

And, you know, I think a lot of the mistakes that we've made as marital therapists or people who have designed marital therapies is we've kind of tried to make people in general into psychologists, we've tried to convert them into psychologists.

And really what we should do is just the opposite -- find out how every day, you know, relationships work, how people are able to make those work and really build a psychology from that, from learning how people manage their relationships, because there are real masters out there at managing relationships, and there's a magic in the way they do it.

You know, if you know about these little moments in which you can turn toward one another or turn away, then you kind of become aware of them and you do it, and it actually works. All of this stuff really works.

GROSS: John Gottman, thank you very much for talking with us.

GOTTMAN: Thank you for having me, Terry. I enjoyed it.

GROSS: Dr. John Gottman directs the Seattle Marital and Family Institute. His books include "Why Marriages Fail and Succeed" and "The Heart of Parenting: Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child."

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: John Gottman
High: Psychologist John Gottman talks about what are some of the key factors that lead to either a good or bad marriage. He has studied hundreds of marriages, and found common behaviors that happy couples share. Gottman is author of "Why Marriages Succeed or Fail," "What Predicts Divorce" and "The Heart of Parenting." He is a professor of psychology at the University of Washington.
Spec: Marriage; Family; Children; Divorce; Health and Medicine

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Date: MAY 05, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 050502NP.217
Head: Jerry Yang
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:40

TERRY GROSS, HOST: As the World Wide Web has grown, so has Yahoo, the first online Web directory. Last year, it was the most widely used search engine and the third most popular site on the Web.

When my guest Jerry Yang co-founded Yahoo as a graduate student at Stanford University in 1994, it was a hobby -- a way to organize all the cool new sites popping up on the Web. Now, Yahoo is a publicly-held company. It has companion books and magazines, and recently started a joint venture with Netscape.

To keep up with the expanding Web and an increasingly competitive environment, Yahoo has created it's own specialized directories for kids and for visitors to different cities around the world.

We invited Jerry Yang back to FRESH AIR to tell us how Yahoo has been changing. I asked about their new customized directory called "My Yahoo."

JERRY YANG, CO-FOUNDER, YAHOO: It's pretty simple, actually. We have people who are interested in the personalized version. In "My Yahoo," they can log on to the and they're asked a series of questions which they usually can answer within five minutes or so.

And once they've answered what subject areas they like, what parts of the world they live in, and what, you know, what -- what sports team they like, what stocks they follow et cetera, they get back a customized page in which the subject areas they're interested in, as well as the topic areas and the regional information they're interested in -- all gets displayed on one page that's packaged pretty much just for them or up to their specifications.

GROSS: And, you know, Wired magazine recently had a cover story that basically declared the Web browser is about to croak, and that surfing is becoming tiresome. Do you think that that's true?

YANG: Well, I think a lot of things in the Internet industry is swinging, much like a pendulum swings. And I think 1996, the buzz word was "surfing" and this year there has been a lot of antagonism towards just pure surfing.

I think that the truth is probably somewhere in between, where the browsers will never go away and surfing itself -- the act of actually approaching content and grabbing content -- will never go away, but whether you are actually grabbing good content, better content over time is really the issue and whether that content becomes more relevant to you as time -- people's time become more scarce -- that's really the issue.

And I think that there are a lot of words out there and a lot of marketing concepts out there that may or may not survive all the time, but the basic behavioral element, which is people consuming information at their own needs and at their own pace and when they need it -- that is a very powerful concept that may or may not be called "surfing" that will always stay around.

GROSS: You know, when you use Yahoo or any of the other search engines or directories, you get a really long list, usually, of websites that have the word that you've been searching for, and sometimes they're not in the order that you think they ought to be. You know, sometimes what's on top doesn't really seem like it ought to be the priority, and so on.

And I know that some people now are trying to arrange their websites so that they will come up high up if anybody searches for relevant content. What are some of the tricks people are doing now so that they surface near the top of the list, when someone is doing a search?

YANG: I think it's important to talk about our approach a little bit before I answer that.

GROSS: Sure.

YANG: And one of the things that we do is that we actually have people to look at each website before they get listed inside Yahoo. So, it's hard to spoof if you -- well, that's the technical term here. It's hard to spoof the Yahoo search engine, just because people usually look at it -- surfers at our company look at it before we put those inside the data base.

But traditionally, how people do it is because much of the search engine world utilizes automated techniques, where non-humans are involved -- automated techniques are involved to decide whether a given website is relevant or not.

Some people can fake it -- make it more relevant than it seems to be or than it is. With Yahoo, we tend to have a little better filter because, you know, it's really the content, the overall content, that we use to judge our descriptions and our search engine results.

GROSS: What's the staff like now who goes through new sites on the Web and catalogues them?

YANG: Well, I think one of the key things that we continued to be very proud of is the fact that we have assembled a really diverse group of people to be our editorial body, if you will, the surfers, and they still comprise probably one of the most important functions of Yahoo, even as we've gotten bigger and have done more things.

And the surfers really, first and foremost, have to be very general thinkers. They're generalists in what they can do. They have specialties, a lot of them have, for example, a Master of Fine Arts in writing or are computer fanatics or health experts or things like that.

But they also can relate to a very overall broad categorization, because part of the challenge is not only to surf websites, but it's also deciding what is relevant and as there are many, many more websites than even any people can surf these days, what is the high quality ones versus the ones that we don't want our users to waste time on.

So more and more, these people are becoming more filters and editors and packagers than just people who surf and put things in the Internet.

GROSS: So if you come to a website and you think, "oh, this is garbage" -- will you catalogue it or not?

YANG: Well, we try to do a couple of things. One is that we compare it to other sites that are in the same relative category, so it's, in a sense it's relative. You now, for example, if it's the 50th Madonna site, they'll just categorize that it has the exact same information that the 49 other ones that preceded it had. It may have less of a chance of being categorized.

We wouldn't say categorically no, because I think one of the things that we do is let the editors decide a case-by-case basis, but the chances are we want to include an experience that's additive and that's incremental, rather than repetitive. And if it's the same experience as the other ones that have been offered, we try not to duplicate what's already been done.

GROSS: After the Heaven's Gate suicides, the mass suicides, there were a lot of articles in the media about cult groups and the Web, because Heaven's Gate not only had a website, it turned out some of their people were webpage designers. Kind of funny to think about, I guess.

YANG: Right.

GROSS: But one of the things Yahoo did was it organized a listing of websites with Heaven's Gate jokes and...

YANG: Well, you know, the tried and true, if you will, for Web audience and the Web fanatics has always been that to come up with -- to see who can be the first to come up with the first parody site after any major event.

And sure enough, the Heaven's Gate incident -- you know, the Web community did not disappoint after the Heaven's Gate incident and a lot of people came up with some pretty funny stuff pretty soon after the site -- or incident happened.

GROSS: Do you have a -- could I easily search in Yahoo for fringe cult groups?

YANG: Well, see, that's one of the things that -- it's a fine line from our editorial standpoint not to stereotype or label things that we certainly, A, don't necessarily have the expertise to say, but I do think we have a category called "cults" and whether that's fringey or not, that's up to your interpretation. We have, you know, mainstream religion and we have cults and we have sort of new age beliefs and things like that.

And we don't -- we try not to be judgmental about it. We try to be as objective as possible in describing those.

GROSS: Tell me what your typical day is in terms of Internet use. What sites to you typically consult on the Web? How much do you actually use it on an average day?

YANG: I spent most of my day, certainly, looking at a lot of it -- keeping up with the news and keeping up with companies that we're interested in and competitors we're interested in, and keeping up with the general -- you know, it's my primary news vehicle by far.

And I spend some time now thinking about buying things, I know of because I don't have a lot of time and I've, like I said, I've bought things on the Web. That's a lot less frequently, but -- than getting news, but that's a large part of it. I keep up with very current events.

So, for example, when the Academy Awards was around, I was able to get all those things that related to the Academy Awards through the Web. The -- a lot of political dialogue -- a lot of political issues tends to be pretty well debated on the Net through different groups and different chatting sites.

It's a great way for me to keep current, and it's a great way, still, to get entertained by looking at a lot of the goofy things that come out and it's always amazing to me that people's creativity -- what they can come up with.

So I think it's, for me, it's probably about 80 percent business use or information use and 20 percent leisure.

GROSS: I think the last time we spoke, you said your mother didn't know yet how to use the Internet. Has she learned since then?

YANG: Yeah. She's figured out how to, certainly, look at -- in fact, a lot of times, you know, I call her once every three days and she's always very up on my competitor's moves and she's saying: how is this move by so and so going to affect you?

And so -- so she's caught on very, very fast and I think that one of the things that's been really great is to see people like her, not because she's related to me, but people in her generation in which she goes to school and she starts to educate other people about the Internet and what it can do and how to use it.

It's just that -- it's amazing that the word of mouth is still primarily the key way in which people are getting on, and she's a great sport about the whole thing and we've gotten her a computer and she's, you know, dialing up every night and checking out her websites and things like that.

GROSS: What are you most looking forward to about the near future -- that you're expecting to happen?

YANG: Getting married.

GROSS: Oh, really. Congratulations.

YANG: Yeah. Thank you, no -- it's a -- that's -- looking forward to getting all the planning done and just going through with it. What is the real answer you're looking for? Let's see.

GROSS: Well, no, no, no -- let me pursue this.

YANG: That was the real answer.

GROSS: Let me pursue this. Are you going to have like a...

YANG: Oh, no.

GROSS: ... marital website?

YANG: No, no, no. It's gonna be a very -- it's not going to be a big affair. We're -- it's for our close friends and family and it'll be great. I mean, one of the things that's -- it's been very important to me, obviously, but even to my family, is that the Web hopefully brings people together, rather than draws them apart.

And the reason is because I think that hopefully the Web is helping people to save time and to better communicate and find things that they'd otherwise never be able to find and people they would otherwise not be able to find. And so they can do spend more time in the sun or well if they have the sun, and spend people that you love and I think ultimately that's what's important to me and I think that not everything that I do has to be on the Web and I think this is one of them.

GROSS: Right. You know, Miss Manners says that if you're sending out a wedding invitation, it's inappropriate to use e-mail. You should use snail mail, and I wonder what Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo, has to say about that?

YANG: Well, my fiancee gave me a lot of grief for sending out e-mail testers -- what I call "teasers" or testing invites because I guess we had to follow up with a real one. But most of the people that I communicate with knew about e-mail way before they knew about regular U.S. postal mail, so I didn't quite make the Manners book.

GROSS: All right, OK. Well, congratulations.

YANG: Thank you.

GROSS: And thank you very much for talking with us.

YANG: Oh, thank you again very much.

GROSS: Jerry Yang is the co-founder of Yahoo.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Jerry Yang
High: Jerry Yang is co-founder of YAHOO, a directory to the World Wide Web. YAHOO has an on-line site, as well as a companion book. YAHOO is one of the most popular sites on the Web. Users can access YAHOO, once in the Web at <a href=""></a&gt;
Spec: Computers; Business; The Internet; Yahoo

Please note, this is not the final feed of record

Copy: Content and programming copyright (c) 1997 National Public Radio, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by Federal Document Clearing House, Inc. under license from National Public Radio, Inc. Formatting copyright (c) 1997 Federal Document Clearing House, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to National Public Radio, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission. For further information please contact NPR's Business Affairs at (202) 414-2954
End-Story: Jerry Yang
Date: MAY 05, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 050503NP.217
Head: Psychics
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:53

TERRY GROSS, HOST: When friends suggested that writer Diegoberto Gilb (ph) see a psychic, he was skeptical. It seemed like such an alien idea. But he soon became obsessed with knowing the future.

DIEGOBERTO GILB, WRITER: It was several months go when a friend -- an intelligent, highly skilled Chicana professional, first suggested I speak to her psychic. I was at her house, and I had just arrived in Austin and I must have looked as psychologically damaged as I was feeling.

"The psychic can reveal amazing things," my friend confided. And I'd be in for a special experience -- so special, it had to be arranged. I had to be recommended.

Visiting a psychic isn't the normal advice, I don't think. I didn't say no, but I thought it was better to settle down -- to both rest more and work harder, if you know what I mean.

I wanted to tough it out solito, you know? Hook into a meditative self-reliance and discipline -- apply the rugged cattle-driving gusher-spouting spirit that made Texas. I was also afraid I was going broke, and I didn't think I should waste money.

I thought my approach was succeeding. I really did. Until one day a month ago, another Chicana from Laredo, but who lives in Boston called me. She's a friend of a friend and I hardly know her.

Still, she got close to the phone, excusing herself for getting so personal, and told me how I should visit this psychic she knew. Though she always hoarded the phone number for her own selfish reasons, she thought I was someone who really needed it.

For a week, I pondered my condition, so obvious to everyone else, looked deep into my messed up self. OK, I would go. I bumped into my friend. I was feeling a little -- how do I say? -- like I was going to talk to a psychic, which feels sneaky, something like that.

Maybe that's only me. Anyway, I was curious. Was her psychic the same one whose phone number I now had? Not only was it, my friend wanted us to have an hour appointment together. We could take notes on each other's readings.

I wasn't so sure. How would my future come out in half an hour? And I wanted to go alone. Then again, there was the money -- half the expense now. OK, I said yes.

After two weeks, she hadn't gotten back to me. Why wasn't she calling me? Maybe she sensed my uncertainty -- my want for privacy, my initial desire to exclude her. So, I dialed the psychic's phone number myself.

I'm sorry I can't give her name. I'll just call her Senora Eckes. She answered. She had an accent, though it was like everybody's in my neighborhood.

"M" gave me your name, I said. She told me how good you were, and I wondered if you could fit me in? "M," she said. "M" -- I haven't heard from "M." Where is she now? I told her.

In fact, the feeling was that I had to tell her everything I knew: How she was the "M" from Laredo; how she'd been here; how she was going back to Boston where she lived now -- actually, Cambridge.

"And what is your name?" she asked. "Diego," I said. But I was afraid I was being too casual. "Diegoberto," I told her. "I have been so busy, Diegoberto, I have so many appointments this week."

"Whenever you can fit me in" -- I tried not to sound needy, but I wanted her to read my future. She took my number. She assured me she'd call back, but she didn't. I called again. I left a message on her answering machine.

I bumped into my friend. She was embarrassed. I was right. Instead of me, she'd taken her sister with her -- her sister really wanted to go, and it was, she exuded, amazing.

I explained that I'd contacted La Senora Eckes on my own. "You spoke to her?" she asked me.

"Well, yeah."

She shook her head -- impressed, I think. I wasn't sure. "But she never got back to me," I told her. My friend called her on my behalf. I heard her talk into the message machine. She gave La Senora Eckes my name and number.

Senora Eckes didn't call me back. What did she pick up on that made her not want to speak to me? Was it because she saw how I'd been too cheap about her labor and skill? What was it she knew about my future that she wasn't willing to tell me?

I had to leave Austin. I drove 10 hours wondering and worrying about all that I didn't know. When I got back to El Paso, a card was in my post office box. It said: "Listen to me. You are about to enter into a period of your life with incredible potential for vast achievements. Major wealth, good fortune, and the end of financial worries are about to come to you."

It wasn't from La Senora Eckes and it wasn't addressed to me. It had been mis-delivered.

GROSS: Diegoberto Gilb is the author of "The Magic of Blood."

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Spec: People; Hispanic; Mythology; Psychics

Please note, this is not the final feed of record

Copy: Content and programming copyright (c) 1997 National Public Radio, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by Federal Document Clearing House, Inc. under license from National Public Radio, Inc. Formatting copyright (c) 1997 Federal Document Clearing House, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to National Public Radio, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission. For further information please contact NPR's Business Affairs at (202) 414-2954
End-Story: Psychics
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?


Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR


Daughter of Warhol star looks back on a bohemian childhood in the Chelsea Hotel

Alexandra Auder's mother, Viva, was one of Andy Warhol's muses. Growing up in Warhol's orbit meant Auder's childhood was an unusual one. For several years, Viva, Auder and Auder's younger half-sister, Gaby Hoffmann, lived in the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan. It was was famous for having been home to Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas, Virgil Thomson, and Bob Dylan, among others.


This fake 'Jury Duty' really put James Marsden's improv chops on trial

In the series Jury Duty, a solar contractor named Ronald Gladden has agreed to participate in what he believes is a documentary about the experience of being a juror--but what Ronald doesn't know is that the whole thing is fake.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.
Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue