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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
(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.