Back before Google became a verb, before Mark Zuckerberg was a household name or Tik Tok was anything other than the sound a clock made, Yahoo! ruled the internet. At the time, the site was a revelation to home internet users, many of whom were not familiar with the idea of a computer database or search engine.
For many years, Yahoo! was a powerhouse. Eventually it was overtaken by Google, but not before unleashing one of the strangest, most ineffective, and unnecessary websites ever in the form of Yahoo! Answers.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, Yahoo! Answers was a website where anyone could pose a question which could then be answered by users on the site. Let me stress that these users were not vetted, they were not hired by Yahoo! to answers questions, they had no authority outside of an internet connection and yet they doled out advice like keyboard sages.
At one point, the Yahoo! Answers page boasted over 200 million users worldwide. I’ll concede that on the surface this sounds like a decent concept. After all, crowd-sourcing is huge these days. Maybe Yahoo! Answers was just ahead of its time?
Gentle reader, let me assure you, it was not.
Yesterday, on May 4, 2021, Yahoo! Answers officially shut down. While some mourned the loss, and others rejoiced, I decided to eulogize this weird little corner of the internet.
Yahoo! Answers was not a good website. It was not a helpful website. But it was, above all things, an entertaining website. Take for instance this question, posed by a curious user, and its answer.
“What is the phobia of chainsaws called?”
The site provided endless hours of entertainment, but it was also a home for concerned parents who were confused by the things their children were doing, such as this poor mother, who was afraid her daughter had joined a cult.
“Why does my daughter ‘ship’ things? What does shipping mean? Yesterday she was crying because of shipping. Is shipping some kind of drug term or cult?”
"For the curious, shipping is internet shorthand for wanting two fictional characters to be in a relationship. It is neither a drug nor a cult."
From parents worried about wayward children we turn to some of the site’s most scientifically curious users, such as this famous question/answer combo.
“Do you think humans will ever walk on the Sun?”
“Well if they do it would have to be at night.”
Amazing that NASA hasn’t considered that option yet.
If you head to the site today you will be greeted with the following message, “Yahoo! Answers was once a key part of Yahoo’s products and services, but it has declined in popularity over the years as the needs of our members have changed. We 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.”
Yahoo! Answers, you will be missed, not by me, but by plenty of confused individuals out there just looking for a little wisdom from the crowd.