“POETIC” is how Marissa Mayer, the boss of Yahoo (pictured), described the sale. Others, remembering better times at Yahoo, see little that is artful about the decline and fall of the 22-year-old internet company. On July 25th, Verizon, a telecoms giant that is also America’s biggest mobile operator, announced it would buy Yahoo’s main internet business for $4.8 billion (a price that does not include the firm’s properties in Asia or its portfolio of patents). The sum is paltry compared with Microsoft’s offer of $45 billion in 2008, which Yahoo’s management turned down, arguing that the firm was worth far more.

Four years ago, when Ms Mayer, an early Google executive and an engineer, arrived to try to reverse the fortunes of Yahoo, the firm’s Silicon Valley headquarters brimmed with optimism. For more than two decades, Yahoo had been torn between its identity as a media company that made content and a technology company that provided tools for people to use online. It seemed that Ms Mayer could be the leader to settle on a single identity and direction (see timeline).

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