Friday, March 27, 2015

Who Remembers Yahoo Groups?

Remember Yahoo Groups? It was (and technically still is) a social media platform that enable people to connect with other people who shared their interests. That's how it was marketed anyway. Anyone could start oe of the "groups" and call it, say, "Sparrow fanciers." and theoretically, people who fancied sparows could join, chat, share photos, files, links, and information. You could post up a topic for discussion and give it a title, say "Best place to see sparrows in NYC?" and, theoretically, other people in the group could answer you, and this way more peopel would know about where to see sparows in New York City.

It was started back in the very late 1990's when the Internet was still young. I'm pretty sure Yahoo had not even acquired Geocities at the time. There was a very similar thing called "Yahoo Clubs" started at the same time, but Yahoo folded that into Clubs pretty quickly.

Then the inevitable happened. People would join these Groups and start posting self-promotions, irrelevant comments and threads, and spam (often porn spam). There were tools that group founders and moderators could use to edit, delete, and vlock these kinds of posts and ban the posters. But sometimes the fonders and mederators would abandond the groups. Perhaps they lost interest. Perhaps they decided they no longer liked the people in the group. Perhaps they forgot their passwords. Perhaps they died. Whatever the reason, these groups became rudderless and leaderless and with no one to stop the spam, they just became taken over with it, and anyone who was there because they loved sparrows quit, or simply stopped using the group.

Sometimes groups would just dissipate because there weren't enough people in it that cared enough to keep up the chatter. There was a little chart at the bottom of the home page that would show the number of postings per month. You could see that number go up and down with the levels of activity and sometime you would see the number e "0" for months. Then the spammers would move in. Like squatters in a vacant house, they would start posting their irrelevant crap. Sometimes you would see a desperate voice in the wilderness crying "Is anyone out there? Can anyone delete the spam and ban the spammers?" But if the founders and moderators had abandoned the group there was nothing that could be done, unless someone figured out how to hack their Yahoo accounts.

Then there were the other social media platforms that rose up. Friendster. MySpace. And the Evil Empire, the Death Star to Rule Them All, Facebook. Between the increased funtionality and flashier looks of these websites, more and more people and organizations found themselves drawn to them and had less and less use for Yahoo Groups.

Then Yahoo changed the look of Groups. Default images were plastered on the home pages that oten had nothing to do with what the specific groups were about.As with any new thing, there was a learning curve involved wiht using the new layout. I, fo one, have found it very frustrating.

I started a bunch of Yahoo Groups in my day, either as a way of promoting a project of mine or finding people who shaed aninterest. I am proud to say that I was able to manage the spam pretty well. I am pretty sure that none of my groups have become refuges for spam-squatters. But let em tell you something that I did notice...

Yahoo Groups would send you e-mails of the postings according to the settings you would choose. you could get an e-mail with every post, you could get a daily digest of everything that day all at once, or you could set it so you would get no e-mails, and if you wanted to see what was going on, you could just go to the Group. If your e-mail inbox was too full or something, these e-mails would start bouncing back to Yahoo, and when that happened, Yahoo would stop sending you the e-mails. You would have to go to Yahoo Groups and push a button to re-set it to start getting the e-mails again.

I, apparently, had been "bouncing," and had not gotten any emails from Yahoo groups for a very long time. Curious, I went to Yahoo Groups and un-bounced myself. So I started getting those e-mails of Yahoo Group posts again.

It seems that almost every Group of which I am getting these e-mails is nothing but porn spam, and for almost all of them, it is the same exact porn spam messages. This is a shame, because some of hose groups used to be actually active and useful. there are files and photos in some of those groups that are (or at least were) useful for reference or enjoyable to read or view. I checked one or two of them and saw the same patters of abandonment and re-occupation as described aboce.

There are still a few active groups out there, probably because there has been no Facebook group formed that was able to serve the same purpose, but it appears (through my admittedly unscientific survey) that the majority of Yahoo Groups is ocupied by spam-bots. It's like some nightmarish dystopia in which mankinds creations have taken ofver the planet and the few remaining enclaves of humans are huddled together in defensive communities awaiting their eventual extinction.

This is kind of a shame. There was much about Yahoo Groups that was useful and functional, and I daresay even better that Facebook. It was easy to find topics when you needed to, if there was some information that you wanted to retrieve. If there were several topics being actively discussed in one day, you didn't have to scroll quite so far to find the one you needed. The files and photos were easy to find and use, and the regular e-mails made it easy to keep up with activity, group by group. topic by topic.

Now that Yahoo Groups is a deserted wasteland, anything good and useful posted in it is getting buried and forgotten. In time, for sure, Yahoo will shut it down like it did Geocities, but it is so filled with crap now, I doubt that there will be an action like those taken by the founders of Oocities and reocities to preserve the content.

So once more, the technological innovations that allow so many of us to get so much more out of life (theoretically). turns out to actually be a waste of time of which there will eventually be no trace.

Unless, of course, there was anyone whose lives were affected by it while it was around. What about you? Was your life affected by Yahoo Groups, either positively or negatively? How different is your life, your social life, you career as a result of Yahoo Groups? Can you say that your life is better for it having existed, or worse, or no different at all?