Yahoo Groups Is Dead — Now What?
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The much-beloved Yahoo Groups is gone - at least in terms of its web interface and archives. As a result, many users are wondering what happens now. And most importantly, what alternatives are available to fill the void. Read all about it below.
The internet has always been about communicating with others - whether we are sending back and forth important business information or just cat videos. Digital collaboration was built into the internet from the beginning.
Yahoo has been one of the driving forces of online communication and information transfer, almost since the birth of the web.
They've fallen on hard times in the last few years. But that doesn't mean that Yahoo is gone from our collective consciousness. It was one of the most important internet companies of the 1990s into the 2000s, and though it has been surpassed by the likes of Google and Facebook, its social media tools are still a mainstay of the internet today.
One such tool was Yahoo Groups.
What Was Yahoo Groups?
Yahoo Groups was an online place where likeminded people or people with similar interests could congregate digitally. They were once extremely popular and they served as the foundation for a lot of the social platforms (and their features) today.
With Yahoo Groups, users could share files and photos, create polls to be taken by other users, create mailing lists, and read and write messages with other users.
One of its biggest features was the ability to communicate with others by reading and responding to email chains (this meant that you didn't have to actually navigate to the Yahoo Groups site to see updates). It was basically a cross between a message board/forum and a Listserv.
Yahoo Groups is a lot like Google Groups. Or if you've ever joined a group on Facebook, you should know what it's like: a virtual place where people get together to discuss shared interests.
What's the Status of Yahoo Groups?
Here are the dates that you need to know if you're a Yahoo Groups user:
- As of October 29, 2019, Yahoo Groups stopped accepting new posts from users
- As of December 14, 2019, Yahoo Groups deleted all content that had been posted.
Does that mean that all is lost? Not necessarily - Yahoo will retain its Groups directory. It has, however, made all groups private (which means you need the approval to join).
The company has also said that its mailing list functionality will keep running, so you can still get in touch with your fellow group members.
So, it's not a 100% extermination of Yahoo Groups, but it is still significant.
The Rise and Fall of Yahoo Groups
In 1998, Yahoo introduced what were essentially digital community spaces called Yahoo Clubs. This was an extension of its Yahoo Message tool.
Yahoo then acquired a competitor eGroups (who had already merged once with ONElist, an email list service), and after merging the two entities, Yahoo branded the result Yahoo Groups.
As you probably already know, Yahoo hasn't been doing well as a company over the years. In 2017, it was acquired by Verizon, which has sold off bits and pieces of the brand over the years, like Flickr and Tumblr.
With that said, don't think that Verizon's acquisition of Yahoo is the root cause of Yahoo Groups' demise.
Despite the popularity of digital groups, Yahoo alternated between ignoring Groups entirely and releasing features that weren't well-received by users since they seemed to make things worse.
Whether the blame lies with Yahoo or not is up for debate, but what isn't up for debate is that many existing users were deeply unhappy with the changes.
The Rise of Social Media
With social media sites like Facebook and Twitter on the rise, Yahoo Groups saw major competition. Before these sites became juggernauts, Yahoo tried to fight back. But unfortunately, their attempts to compete were not well-received.
Facebook had its updates feed. Instagram became the place to go for sharing pictures. Twitter was the micro-blogging site of choice. YouTube and Snapchat featured videos.
With all these changes in the digital landscape, Yahoo Groups would continue its trend of stagnation, right up until its removal by Yahoo at the end of 2019.
- 1996: eGroups (FindMail) founded
- 1997: ONElist founded
- 1998: Yahoo Clubs launched
- 1999: ONElist merges into eGroups
- 2000: Yahoo acquires eGroups
- 2001: Yahoo Groups launched
- 2004: Yahoo Groups Japan launched
- 2009: Yahoo Groups has over 100 million users
- 2010: Yahoo Groups has 2.2 million groups
- 2014: Yahoo Groups Japan shut down
- 2015: Yahoo Groups has 2.7 million groups
- 2019: Yahoo Groups deletes archive and shuts down
Why Did People Love Yahoo Groups?
From the vantage point of 2020, Yahoo Groups doesn't seem like much. But things were different back in 2001 (or 1998) when it was launched.
At that time, the web was only just taking off. There were one-tenth as many people on the internet as there are now. That was the year that Wikipedia started. It's hard to imagine the internet without Wikipedia!
In the 1980s and early 1990s, the internet was mostly just email and Usenet - basically the internet's answer to BBSs (bulletin board systems) - clunky but fun ways to communicate with others. In fact, many terms we use today like "flame war" and "spam" gained their popularity during that time.
In the same way that there is no fundamental difference in functionality between a transistor radio and an iPod, there is no difference between Usenet and Yahoo Groups or even Facebook Groups. But there are important differences in that the later technologies are easier to use and more powerful.
Yahoo Groups made interacting with groups easier - both with its web interface and via email.
Another big improvement with Yahoo Groups was that it allowed users to easily create new groups. Creating a new newsgroup in Usenet was an involved process.
Today, there aren't too many people mourning the death of Yahoo Groups. But 15 years ago, it's demise would have been big news.
Yahoo Groups Alternatives
With Yahoo Groups no longer a viable option for what its users want, some will be left seeking alternatives. If you are in this boat, you may want to consider the following list of options.
The following is a list of options for you to consider if you're interested in groups-related functionality.
That is, you want a tool where people can gather together to share and receive information, participate in discussions, pool their contact information, and so on.
- Facebook Groups: of the options on this list, Facebook Groups is the most popular. Any member can create a group to post information, share files and pictures, and get access to a list of other members. Facebook Groups comes with a fairly robust set of privacy measures, so you can create public or private groups, and you can even set up private groups so that they cannot be found (new members may join if invited by a current member). Facebook also includes the ability to create events, which you can use to provide information and collect RSVPs.
- Google Groups: helps facilitate communication between members. Like Yahoo (and unlike Facebook), Google Groups lets you email everyone in the group using one email address. You also get document-sharing and basic event management functionality. There are likely to be fewer users of Google Groups than Facebook, but given the sheer number of people with Gmail addresses (and therefore Google accounts), this shouldn't be a big problem.
- Groups.io: born when users were unsatisfied with the direction Yahoo Groups took a couple of years ago created their own email groups platform. Groups.io is email-based, but the product offers integrations with apps and tools like Slack, Google Drive, GitHub, and so on. Groups.io also comes with features that both Google and Facebook Groups have, such as chat, file sharing, and wiki pages.
Forums and Message/Bulletin Board Systems
If all you are interested in is providing a place for users to post messages and read others' messages, then a forum or message/bulletin board system might be sufficient.
If you aren't interested in limiting who can contribute to your discussions, there are many options to which you can turn for digital conversation. Reddit is popular and has subreddits for almost any topic you can think of, while those in the technology industry would find Stack Overflow and Hacker News useful.
One of the most popular features of Yahoo Groups was its Listserv capabilities. While users could read messages on the Yahoo Groups site, they could also read and respond to messages via email chains.
Unfortunately, there are few options that emphasize email-only communication and collaboration - many people recommend using Facebook Groups or Google Groups for such functionality. Options like MailChimp and Constant Contact are geared more towards those who send out newsletters (not those facilitating email chains).
Nevertheless, LISTSERV is still a viable option if this is the route you want to take.
Yahoo Groups will continue to function as an email list for what it's worth. You can, therefore, keep emailing (and receiving emails) from those who are also members of your groups.
IRC and Chat-Based Options
If what you are looking for is the ability to facilitate conversations between a group of people, there are several chat-based options that could potentially fill that need.
- Internet Relay Chat: in some ways, the grandfather of all things internet chat. There are many clients that facilitate group communication - some allowing private messages and file sharing. There are a variety of networks from which you can choose, though the number of IRC users (and therefore networks) dwindles as people move away to social media groups and more modern tools like Slack.
- Discord: a free voice and text chat app that's popular with gamers - including popular tools such as Twitch and Steam. Despite its association with gamers, there's nothing that says that you can't use it for other purposes. It features some file-sharing abilities. To get started, you would create a server, set its visibility and access, and then create one or more channels for discussion.
- Skype: a popular option for those needing to communicate with others, both in text and via telephone/video calls. The biggest downside is the lack of navigation if you want to go back and read previous messages. There's a search function, but there's little indexing, so your searches might not be as fruitful as you'd wish. Messages can also be grouped by users (and only users in that group can see the messages), but there aren't any type of linkages, so you can't see posts as threads or groups.
- Slack: currently the enterprise tool of choice for many companies that need digital collaboration, though it can certainly be used for other purposes as well. In addition to facilitating private conversations between two or more users, Slack's primary function is to allow users to join channels that are dedicated to certain topics (e.g: a company might have a Slack account with individual channels for each of its departments). Slack has a fairly robust search function, and users can choose to continue conversations in threads so that they can be referenced with ease at a later point. One of the biggest features of Slack, however, is its never-ending support for third-party tools. If there's something missing from Slack, it's likely you'll be able to set up an integration that adds the feature.
Got questions about Yahoo Groups? We have answers.
Does Yahoo Groups still exist?
The short answer is that Yahoo Groups as it has existed over the past decade is no longer around. Additionally, Yahoo has made all groups private and deleted all the data uploaded by Yahoo Groups users. Although Yahoo Groups may not exist as it once was, it isn't completely dead. Its email communication functionality still exists, so members of groups can still send and receive messages from other members.
Can I still join Yahoo Groups?
You can request to be invited to an existing group. Once you have been approved, you can participate in the group and contact other members. You cannot, however, create new groups, even if you are already a Yahoo Groups member.
Can you join a Yahoo group without a Yahoo email address?
Yes, you can join a Yahoo group without a Yahoo email address. What is required, however, is an account with Yahoo. They are free; all you have to do is set one up. When creating your Yahoo account, simply provide your non-Yahoo email address when prompted.
How do I access my Yahoo groups?
You can only access Yahoo Groups through email. You can still go onto the website, but all you will find is a description of the group along with the email addresses to join and use the group. If you want more than this, you will need to use a different system.
Yahoo Groups is all but dead, but for those who are looking for apps and tools that offer similar functionality, options abound. There's nothing quite like Yahoo Groups on the market today, though Google Groups probably comes the closest in our opinion.
Nevertheless, there are lots of powerful options that help facilitate communication between people, offer file sharing, and come with event management capabilities. If you're willing to broaden your horizons a bit, we think you will be happy with whichever option you choose for your next group communication tool.