2021 feels like the year of mid-00’s platforms of nostalgia erasing themselves from the aether of the internet. Flash closed down in December of 2020, and now Yahoo Answers is shutting down on May 4 (happy Star Wars Day?). Starting April 20, the site won’t accept any new questions or any answers to already-posted questions, but users will be able to request a downloadable version of their data until June 30, when the data will become completely inaccessible.
To those who may not be aware of why this is somewhat newsworthy, some context is important: the site started in 2005, and, for a time, it was a highly popular place to get debatably factual answers for all sorts of mundane questions. Is its closure sad? In some ways, yes. The website was an object of mid-00’s nostalgia for all sorts of people, especially individuals who were growing up during the site’s hayday from around 2005 to 2009. Often, it acted as a way for young people to learn about subjects that were taboo in their families, schools, or even their cultures.
The site also had a very mid-00’s internet vibe and aesthetic when it was at its most popular; memories of green banners and ugly avatars have been hammered into my brain no matter how hard I try to get them out, but those really poorly-designed HTML pages were where I got some of my first glimpses of the burgeoning internet culture. Websites like Reddit, ask.com, and Quora have since taken over as the primary ‘ask questions here’ websites for most users, which is probably for the best, considering some of the absurd questions and answers that the site featured (how is babby formed?).
Memes aside, the move away from Yahoo Answers as a popular social media platform has also notably coincided with the increase in conservatives using the platform to ask seemingly rhetorical or confirmation-bias-laced questions like ‘Aren’t George Floyd, Daunte Wright and others like them just unfortunate victims of their own bad behavior and decision making?’ and ‘What did rocket scientist, Daunte Wright, think would happen when he resisted arrest, jumped back in his car and tried to drive away? Do?’ That’s not to say that the whole platform is toxic and ignorant; there are several innocent or at least semi-informed questions and plenty of commenters do speak out against the racism and ignorance that they see, but there’s still a surprising amount of questions on the platform that suggest a conservative or far-right user base that isn’t seen in the same ways on other social media platforms like Twitter or the aforementioned Reddit.
Yahoo’s reason for closing down the site was due to the platform having become ‘less popular over the years’ and a want to ‘focus on products that better serve our members,’ though it’s likely that the increase in ignorance-based posts is another reason for the site’s closure. A lot of social media companies have been moving to push conservatives off of their platforms, and Yahoo Answers’ dying popularity was probably a solid excuse for the company to finally put an end to the service without sparking any major backlash from those who might accuse them of censorship. In any case, it’s sad to see another hallmark of decades-past internet culture fade into the internet graveyard.
Yahoo Answers had a good run; it was filled with nonsense questions and absurd answers, but, sometimes, you just need to ask someone what a ‘luigi board’ is and hope that the answers don’t make fun of you for your lack of occult knowledge. Time moves on, and new platforms will replace Yahoo Answers, but nothing can replace the absolutely ridiculous time that its users had on the site.
Featured Photo Courtesy of Sage Amdahl / Quaker Campus