Why Do We Need Proactive Archiving? Yahoo! Answers

Why Do We Need Proactive Archiving? Yahoo! Answers

In 2016, a rumor was circulating that Yahoo! Answers might be shutting down. Rumor or not, this was once the most popular Q&A site on the internet, so archivists did not take any chances. Soon after, Archive Team sprung into action, grabbing over 30 TBs worth of data. This included questions and answers in various languages, posted between 2005-2016.

Fortunately, by 2017 it became clear that such a shutdown would not be happening and the internet breathed a sigh of relief…

Come April 2021 when Yahoo! announces that Answers actually will be shutting down within a month. The hastily published FAQ page tells users that the site will go read-only by 20 April, but does not give any reasons for the shutdown. The closest thing to an explanation for the is an excerpt in an e-mail sent to registered members, as reported by The Verge:

While Yahoo Answers was once a key part of Yahoo’s products and services, it has become less popular over the years as the needs of our members have changed. To that end, we have decided to shift our resources away from Yahoo Answers to focus on products that better serve our members and deliver on Yahoo’s promise of providing premium trusted content.

Had things gone differently, we might have been facing a much more grim situation, trying to cram 16 years of web history into a few weeks. Conveniently, archivists are not empty-handed, with the 2016 grab already under Archive Team’s belt. Not to mention that the scripts used for the previous grab were also ready to use after some retooling.

To grab the 5 years worth of content in between, Archive Team has already set up a project into motion. Archive Team have already grabbed a few hundred gigs worth of data and you can follow the project status on #noanswers on HackInt.

Yahoo! Answers was a forum where many questions found their answers throughout the Web 2.0 era. And now, one final question Yahoo! Answers, is what merit there is to proactive archiving. Even a 15 year-old website may only have as short as a month between announcement and shutdown. “Today it is here, tomorrow it will stay”, is no longer a healthy assumption in this volatile age of the web. We need backups before the warning siren.

So let us smile at this happy ending as Yahoo! Answers will trustfully be preserved. Now if you excuse me, it’s time for me to brush up on Ouija Boards.


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