Yahoo published a press release explaining that their “Answers” service is permanently shut down. “Once a key part of Yahoo’s products and services, it has declined in popularity over the years as the needs of our members have changed,” said the release. The site is no longer accessible as of May 4, 2021, but those who have interacted previously can download their Yahoo Answers data until June 30.
Yahoo Answers was an enigma. Launched in 2005, the question-and-answer platform was meant to be “a place where people can ask each other questions on any topic, and get answers by sharing facts, opinions, and personal experiences.” Initially, it was created to help boost Yahoo Search results. Back then, Yahoo was a massive company with a humungous social community, e-mail address hosting, directories, and the biggest search engine worldwide.
“Long term, Answers has the potential to attract incremental users, increase time spent on the Yahoo! Platform, and create monetization opportunities through additional sponsored links and page views,” Douglas Anmuth told Forbes in 2005.
Truth be told, Yahoo Answers had a legacy, but not the one it was intended for. The answers were never really relevant; instead, the questions were more popular. As seen on YouTube, comedians and podcasters made light of the interesting Yahoo Answers community.
The ridiculous questions people asked gave way to its popularity. Despite the off-the-wall jokes, the platform did have some formidable queries such as household repairs and awkward questions from teens too shy to ask their parents.
An internal ranking system helped create a sense of community though it didn’t mean much. Those who asked questions could choose the best answer, giving them points and leveling them up. This sense of community made the platform engaging. In 2005, Facebook and Reddit were infants, and Twitter was seen in the distance. Yahoo Answers didn’t compete with those social media platforms, but they did fulfill similar needs throughout their user base. As chat rooms began to shift to social media, Yahoo Answers was a half-step between the two.
After May 4th, Yahoo Answers will be lost to the depths of the Internet the way of GeoCities, MySpace, and Adobe Flash. The good news is, a large portion of Yahoo Answers will be available on the WaybackMachine, an Internet archive.
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