Saving Private Groups: This Time the Mission is the Fan

Saving Private Groups: This Time the Mission is the Fan
In a little more than 24 hours Yahoo Groups will be biting the dust, if you were once a member of a community or perhaps own and/or know an owner of a restricted or private group which you’d like to save I urge you to contact archiver1.fandom@gmail.com or join the “Save Yahoo Groups” Discord Server: https://discord.gg/DyCNddf . Without further ado, the Fandom Rescue Story…
 
Ah, the late 90’s! A time with dial-up internet, people ranting about wasting too much time in front of their televisions instead of on their phones, and this book called Harry Parter about witches and wizards or something. It was a different time in many ways and it’s a bit frightening how fast things have changed considering how chronologically recent it was. And yet, some things were quite similar, but the way one went about doing them was kind of different. Take for instance what you would do in your free time…
 
So you want to socialize online in 1997 huh? Unfortunately you don’t really have anything like Twitter or Reddit; maybe you could go on Usenet or IRC, if you don’t mind having an unreliable chat log or none at all. Then why not join a mailing list? It’s perfect for discussing lizards with herpetology nerds or sharing your Thundercats fan-fiction with fans of the show.
 
Yahoo group writing children's non fiction | Essay writing ...
This age, the age of the mailing list was a time that many online communities flourished, particularly fandom. What had previously been restricted to (maga)”zines” and conventions had finally started to gain traction online. A mailing list at the time was a luxury akin to Slack/Discord servers of today, you could start a group with people who had a common interest without having to go through the tedious process of setting up new hardware, instead people got messages and notifications delivered straight to their inboxes. This rapid notification system allowed for communities that would no longer “sleep”, you would have updates almost 24/7. And as one can imagine, having such a party that never ends was incredibly addictive, though word-of-mouth mailing list providers such as OneList, EGroups and finally Yahoo! Groups soared in popularity.
 
“Our Group has been chosen to participate in the Yahoo! Groups Beta Program and all of the features that Yahoo! is contemplating have been incorporated into our Group. Threads can now be linked as Conversations and are searchable. Posting photos and links is now much easier.”
– Post on a group blissfully unaware of their eventual demise
 
 
Time however was cruel to the mailing list, the last giant to survive the era was the aforementioned Yahoo! Groups which tried to modernize with its web interface but was unable to keep up with the rapid growth of technology at the time. Eventually users began migrating to newer websites, and by 2015 the website resembled a ghost town.

 
Yahoo groups post date.png

(Image taken from: https://www.archiveteam.org/index.php?title=Yahoo!_Groups)

Still, many fan communities traced their origins to the mailing lists, with older members sometimes recounting terms, stories or jokes that originated in those days to the newer members. It’s safe to say that these groups left behind quite a legacy– which Verizon (Media) recently decided to wipe off the face of the earth.

 
In mid-October of 2019, it was announced that Yahoo Groups would be shut down, what followed was outrage. Although it was the true that most of the former user base of Yahoo Groups had indeed moved on to other platforms, members of the early online fandom community did see what was at stake and were some of the first people to spring into action.
 
On October 22nd 2019 Tumblr user zhie started a Discord Server “Save Yahoo Groups” (link above), the same day Morgandawn started a Tumblr blog: https://yahoo-geddon.tumblr.com/. These two outlets combined together to form Fandom’s Sortie against Verizon’s Yahoo Groups Siege.
 
‘…People here have been doing massive numbers of searches for fandom groups. Of course, some of us already belonged to fandom groups, and in some cases we have people coming in, saying, “These are really great groups that I think should be saved.”

 

As far as I know, there has been no formal archiving project for fandom Yahoo Groups prior to this. During the time that Yahoo Groups was most active, there were fan fiction archives that sometimes duplicated what was at Yahoo Groups. But an enormous amount of fandom content at Yahoo Groups has never been archived.’

– Yahoo Groups Archiving Volunteer 
 
While Archive Team had also gotten involved right off the bat, they stated their goal to be grabbing as many public groups as possible. Whereas the fandom community wanted to ensure the survival of their groups, some of which had restricted access (were publicly visible but an invite was needed to join) or were private (not publicly visible).
 
The two teams worked in tandem; with Archive Team providing tools and logistics for backing up the data, and the SYG team which worked to sniff out the more obscure fandom groups and establish contacts with the restricted/private group owners. Of course both teams played a tremendous role in publicizing the whole event, even managing to secure an extension for people to get more time for backing up their data.
 
Both Archive Team and the SYG team made a number of group lists for groups which they found, again keeping their own focus Archive Team set out to grab the data from their public groups lists and the SYG team split their group list into tabs, which volunteers would claim and try to get access into. 
 
Many hours of searching, exchanging mails and sleepless nights later and TB’s of data have been rescued from certain destruction. Archive Team’s own Tracker reports 2.76 TB of data to have been saved. The SYG team hasn’t fully tallied up their data yet, but have counted the number of groups they’ve retrieved and/or are retrieving from to be around 123K!

The Yahoo Groups Story is a fine tale which shows how different teams with complementing abilities and backgrounds can work together to accomplish things neither could have done as good on their own. If you too would like to become a part of this story, you can head on over to the Discord server and see if you can reach any of the owners that they’re looking for.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

3 Comments

  1. One of the issues with Yahoo Groups that is infrequently mentioned is how badly the effort to "modernize" the interface was undertaken. It took a product that was basically a forum or, well, a group, and tried to convert it into a Facebook/twitter style timeline while removing a lot of group search capabilities. (I'm not even mentioning the bugs that were introduced.) As a result, important older content became almost impossible to find, and usage of many groups plummeted. Sure, Yahoo Groups was feeling competitive pressure from other platforms, but you'd be hard pressed to find a way to destroy the platform more effectively than what Yahoo actually implemented.

  2. Sandy

    Yep, it’s hard to imagine a company that would be any better than Yahoo was at destroying itself.

    Were you there for the constant “improvements” to Yahoo mail in early 2000’s that everyone hated and eventually fled from?

    Unfortunately this process is ONGOING everywhere on the Internet, as I see it, and the reason for it, I believe is one and simple: IT-companies have to go through a period of development where they employ a BUNCH of IT-people, who (if they do things right) eventually come up with a workable/likable/profitable product.

    Then the trouble starts. The best of these people leave and create their own companies. The rest want to stay in the now comfy position they’ve grown to like. BUT there’s not enough to DO for nearly all of them. The only way they can justify their jobs is to keep making constant CHANGES to the site … “IMPROVEMENTS” … over and over ….

    What none of them seem to understand is that most of the world sees email and other Internet functionality as a TOOL. It’s just a tool, and when it’s constructed in any relatively optimal form, people want to USE that tool … let me put that, “Use THAT tool”, and NOT have it, then, constantly changing. BUT then what would all the IT department “do”??

    Imagine if every time you reached for your hammer from your toolbox it were a different shape, weight, material, on and on! It use to work on nails but now you can only hammer pixels with it. Good GOD.

    Yahoo crashed like a 747, straight down, over this. Look at their valuation. The MILLIONS of complaints year after year TOLD them what they were doing wrong, but to no avail … perhaps because the IT people are the first folks to see those complaints (so do they go any further?).

    For me this is the story of virtually every internet site. My grocery store HEB had a nice workable web site in the 2012 time frame, which is SOO horribly annoying now (since about 2016)* I HATE it. Same with Home Depot. On and on. I think Lowe’s still does a good job, but they’ve got a “feedback” tab on EVERY page and so it’s no trouble to point out things that are not right. And they FIX it. KUDOS!

    My opinion is that once any web site has a workable/profitable/liked implementation, they should let go the “super performers” if they haven’t left already, and keep probably no more than about 5% of “the (merely) good ones” to keep things running smoothly and to consider making changes ONLY AFTER THOROUGHLY POLLING USERS, beta-testing the changes and DITCHING them if unpopular (!!!), and CONSIDER ABOVE ALL THE OLD ADAGE that THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT.

    I must have spent many thousands of hours writing/complaining to Yahoo to no avail. I think I can say I was right. AOL and Yahoo “merged”, under Verizon, in 2017 for a tiny declared total percentage of their early 2000’s separate worths. Stephen Colbert said of the merger, “AOL and YAHOO are merging, because nobody likes to die alone”. And so indeed they just this year have, together. What a WASTE.

    *The HEB site once had good functionality for searching on PRODUCTS, which of course is what they sell. But, for example, starting at about 2016 they started this thing where you search on a product you want to see if they have, and you get a few kilobytes of the information YOU WANTED, but then A CONTINUING DELUGE of tens of megabytes of “RECIPES”, of all things, with endless (megabytes of) photos, whether you want them or not. 99 PERCENT OF THE DATA THEY SEND YOU IS SUPERFLUOUS, and will quickly use up a data allowance. I’ve told them over and over: why not have a button TO REQUEST recipes instead. NO ONE listens. I don’t use their site. WHAT A WASTE.

  3. Tony and Aileen

    I agree there are so many sites that don’t take any notice of feedback and I’ve given up on giving feedback. A good example: I’m looking at buying a pair of electric reclining chairs using my tablet to browse 2 or 3 sites that seem to have good prices I won’t bother to use because a few seconds in they display banners that totally block what I want to see, if I use portrait mode I lose the side information so it’s easier to go to a different site.
    As far as Yahoo Groups is concerned my wife and I belonged to a group and there were a lot of photos of us. We’re in our twilight years and we would love to get hold of our photos as they were something to look back on, we had a LOT of fun but unfortunately my computer skills are not great and my chances of getting those photos is very slim.

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