So with Groups gone, what does Yahoo even do anymore?
October 29, 2020 12:59 AM   Subscribe

Good question. While the ascendant Yahoo of the 1990s now only lives in our memories, its name and branding continue to shamble on zombie-like to its owner Verizon’s other products — this time, a purple 'Yahoo! Mobile' branded phone which retails for $49.99.

... In its own way, it perfectly captures the diminished state of Yahoo in 2020. A branded budget phone is just the most recent entry in Yahoo’s long journey from web services titan to name Verizon slaps on things.
posted by Cardinal Fang (61 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted one time to see you talking
I only wanted to see you
Talking on the purple phone
posted by chavenet at 2:11 AM on October 29 [13 favorites]


Like who is this supposed to appeal to?
posted by Literaryhero at 2:59 AM on October 29


Probably will appeal to no one. But if it does, it'll have some slight appeal to the middle aged people who still use Yahoo email.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 4:06 AM on October 29 [1 favorite]


Yahoo has been mostly a fantasy football company for like 15 years now.

(Also email that keeps showing me spam from India because it says it’s from “Amazon”)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 4:21 AM on October 29 [2 favorites]


...it'll have some slight appeal to the middle aged people who still use Yahoo email.

Middle aged? My 27-year-old daughter still uses a Yahoo email address. I keep trying to get her off it, but it's just habit for her.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:46 AM on October 29 [3 favorites]


They still serve up the Netscape home page, so there's that
posted by phooky at 4:48 AM on October 29 [7 favorites]


I got a "Do you Yahoo?" bumper sticker in my Wired magazine one month, and I thought it was kind of cool, just because it felt obscure, like an insiders reference. I mean, I didn't think it was cool enough to actually stick on my car or anything. But I did Yahoo there for a while.
posted by bitslayer at 5:15 AM on October 29 [3 favorites]


I need a year on that bitslayer, was this like 1999 or 2019?
posted by Literaryhero at 5:24 AM on October 29 [5 favorites]


Man, remember Dogpile?
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 5:25 AM on October 29 [5 favorites]


For what it's worth, Yahoo! is still big in Japan. The go-to search engine over Google I think.
posted by zardoz at 5:29 AM on October 29 [1 favorite]


Yahoo finance is still pretty decent for a free service.
posted by freakazoid at 5:41 AM on October 29 [7 favorites]


^ can't get quarterly #s for free anymore tho
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 6:05 AM on October 29


I got the email about groups a couple of days ago. All of the groups i helped run went silent ages ago. It's sad - if you're into certain old obscure computer or gaming systems there's not really a replacement.
posted by 1adam12 at 6:05 AM on October 29 [4 favorites]


Yahoo is my spam-gathering email. I don't care if it gets shut down, but if someonen harvests my email and blows up my inbox it's no loss and I'll just re-join retailers and donate to ActBlue under some other email address.
posted by Peach at 6:12 AM on October 29 [8 favorites]


Literaryhero, it was before they invented the calendar, so I can't be sure.
posted by bitslayer at 6:21 AM on October 29 [2 favorites]


Like who is this supposed to appeal to?

I always wonder which idiot exec green lights shit like this. I always imagine it to be some 50-something white guy who's like "why not? It's Yahoo. People like Yahoo. Everyone loves Yahoo. I drunk Yahoo as a kid and I loved it."
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 6:22 AM on October 29 [4 favorites]


Hey, jessamyn, do you still have your Yahoo! bike?
posted by terrapin at 6:22 AM on October 29 [3 favorites]


I dunno... A $50 phone has a lot of appeal. Regardless of branding.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:27 AM on October 29 [6 favorites]


“As of January 2019, Yahoo! News ranked sixth among global news sites, ahead of Fox News and behind CNN, according to Alexa.” Wikipedia
posted by waving at 6:45 AM on October 29 [4 favorites]


For me, the name "Yahoo" was synonymous with the early Web, but quickly made irrelevant. It was the big Web player at a time when the Web was itself a small player. It was the implementation detail of HTTP that answered that question all the Gopher people kept pestering it with "Sure, but where's the top of the Web? What's the first page??"

But almost immediately it was just a silly word on a strangely large company that seemed to shift around and dabble in all sorts of dot-com stuff that never really caught my attention. It was no longer an index or a search engine worth my time, but a silly word and a slogan. Reduced to nothing but branding.

And that "Do you Yahoo?" slogan was generic enough that it could have been a type of laundry detergent or car or beer or something. I only continued to encounter it because nerds who weren't very adept at humour would substitute the brand name in their e-mail .signature files, asking the reader if they... did... whatever other word they were interested in (Do you Linux? Do you Quake3? Do you Bitcoin?). It was the same level of wit as the GIF spec authors insisting that the acronym was pronounced like the peanut butter, simply so they could give that brand free advertising space every time someone argued about the pronunciation.

So it goes beyond shell companies, and into the thinnest of shell identities. Yahoo is a meme, divorced from the mechanisms of finance and payroll and assets and liabilities of the corporation that grasps the trademark in its fist. It is the campaign poster of a kid who desperately wants to be popular but goddammit "fetch" simply wasn't going to happen! Stop trying to make "fetch" happen!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 6:45 AM on October 29 [6 favorites]


I taught Gulliver's Travels to my students last week and I have some questions about how the company decided on the name Yahoo! in the 90s first place.
posted by sy at 6:46 AM on October 29 [3 favorites]


For what it's worth, Yahoo! is still big in Japan. The go-to search engine over Google I think.

Yahoo! here isn't connected with the US zombie other than licensing the name from Verizon.

Search through Yahoo! Japan started gradually shifting from its own engine to Google's in 2010 and Google now has 98% of the domestic search market. Even considering them to be separate, Google had about three quarters of the Japanese search market (on both PC and mobile) to Yahoo!'s respective ~15% and ~25% as of August, 2019 (data from a citation on the Japanese Wikipedia entry for Yahoo! Japan).

That said, I use Yahoo! for weather, train routes/schedules, and auctions all the time here, but my favorite example of the differences between Yahoo! in the US and here is that Yahoo!知恵袋, the counterpart to Yahoo! Answers, is often genuinely helpful.
posted by Strutter Cane - United Planets Stilt Patrol at 6:58 AM on October 29 [8 favorites]


I still have the address "jeremias@yahoo.com" which I think I registered somewhere around 1995-96. Writing your email out like that is generally a bad idea because spambots, but I gave up using the address around 2002. Not for any status issues or whatever, but because 10 million people with the same name starting using it to register for things online I guess and the spam floodgates began to flow.

If you're curious what th einbox looks like in 2020, here's a sample of just the last 6 hours.
    Vive el Halloween más dulce con este descuento del 20% Join the Biggest Haier & AllHome Payday Holiday GRAND SALE #fiqueemcasa e negocie online [Let's Play Soccer] Automated game reminder JEREMIAS, Negocie aqui, faça sua simulação agora! 🎁 Ofertas anticipadas Black Friday. Adelanta tus compras.
posted by jeremias at 7:04 AM on October 29 [3 favorites]


jeremias, that message is incoherent. You should click on the included link to see if you can figure out what they meant.
posted by neuron at 7:13 AM on October 29 [10 favorites]


It doesn't look like a bad phone for $50. It's probably not great but I'd bet that an $800 phone isn't 16x better than it either.
posted by octothorpe at 7:31 AM on October 29 [1 favorite]


Stick to (fantasy) sports
posted by ckape at 7:31 AM on October 29


Yahoo took over my old (DSL-only) ISP's email which allowed me to keep my old email address after I dumped them for cable Internet. Other than that, I have no idea if they do anything at all. Which is fine by me.
posted by tommasz at 7:44 AM on October 29


Hey, jessamyn, do you still have your Yahoo! bike?

I do! But it's fallen into disuse and just become one of those pieces of detritus livening up my stairwell along with the porcupine spine and the gumball machines. I still have a Yahoo account which is my spam trap. It's really surprising how little that part of the platform has changed in 10-15 years.
posted by jessamyn at 7:56 AM on October 29 [5 favorites]


I set up my yahoo email in ‘98 or ‘99 and every few weeks I’ll login to see what shite has accumulated. I have a bunch of personal emails, some from people who are no longer alive, and I haven’t bothered to look up how to archive them. Plus there are a few friends who persist in sending emails to that address no matter how many times I tell them to please change it.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:04 AM on October 29


I'm actually concerned about what would happen if my @yahoo.com email address went away. I use it for any service that I think will spam me with bullshit - so basically it's my login for everything.
posted by charred husk at 8:18 AM on October 29 [5 favorites]


Also, I've now got the opening track for Mouth Dreams in my head.
posted by charred husk at 8:18 AM on October 29 [3 favorites]


I still have my Yahoo email because it's got messages on there from both of my parents who are long past now. I should try to figure out the best way to archive those.
posted by octothorpe at 8:20 AM on October 29 [4 favorites]


One of the things "Yahoo" does is provide a "competitor" to Google as an alternative search engine available in the default dropdown list in Safari on macOS and iOS. It's probably the least relevant of the three not-Google options (the others being Bing and DuckDuckGo), and in fact it is a rebadged version of one of them. I would not be surprised to learn that its presence on the list is subsidized, but it's there.
posted by fedward at 8:32 AM on October 29


fedward, I'm reasonably sure that DuckDuckGo is a mostly-anonymised front-end onto Bing searches anyway, so it looks like it's Bing all the way down!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 8:44 AM on October 29


Yahoo finance is still pretty decent for a free service.

Since the heartbreak of Google Finance being murdered in its sleep and replaced by vapidware Yahoo Finance has vaulted into the upper reaches of free finance sites. ( In this era of crapification I guess a modest effort shines.)
posted by Pembquist at 8:54 AM on October 29 [1 favorite]


DuckDuckGo's help pages say they have their own crawler and only use Bing as a source for some results. They do also use Microsoft's ad network. So it's Google, Bing, Bing, and only partly Bing. I would expect the details of exactly how much Bing there is in DuckDuckGo and Yahoo Search to come out in discovery in the DOJ's antitrust lawsuit against Google.
posted by fedward at 8:55 AM on October 29 [2 favorites]


They still serve up the Netscape home page, so there's that

I clicked through that a little and got to the support page. The first support option listed is:
Send Us a Letter
Netscape
PO Box 65345
Sterling, VA 20166-8810

Please be sure to include your e-mail address, along with a detailed description of your question or request.
I almost feel bad for the person employed to read *physical mail* support letters for Netscape. I feel like dropping them a postcard just to ask them if they are ok.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 8:58 AM on October 29 [17 favorites]


Like many others, I long ago signed up for a Yahoo account as a throwaway to avoid spamming up my regular account(s). Ironically, the Yahoo account doesn't get much spam.
posted by Preserver at 9:01 AM on October 29


I had a Yahoo account long ago, but it's probably 10 years since I tried and failed to regain access to it. One of those things that would probably have some meaningful archaeological value to me, but is lost in the decaying mesh of the old internet. Along with my Myspace profile, AOL email account, and university email account, and free-hosted email account on cjb.net.

If I had to change one thing, I'd have set up a long-term data archive and downloaded stuff like those mailboxes and chat archives from time to time.

I mean, I still can and should change that one thing.
posted by lostburner at 9:35 AM on October 29 [1 favorite]


Like many others, I used Yahoo mail as my spamtrap, although I did just apply for a job with that email yesterday...
posted by suelac at 9:46 AM on October 29


I decided to check and see what's up with my connections to Y! and found that my original account from had to be 1998/9 had been removed due to inactivity. That was the one I set up with my first blog's name. No biggie.

I have another one which is tied to a domain I owe which has no activity, no email (yay!) and nothing else. I *think* I set this one up last year when I pushed Flickr's newest owners to disassociate my Y! account from my login because I didn't want to have a Y! account. They gave in, but part of the process involved me setting up this other account? I forget. May be even inventing all this.

However, while reading their "are you SURE you want to delete your account" screed I notice they still mention the connection to Flickr. And warn I will lose that. Which, honestly, is okay with me. I have stopped posting directly to Flickr, and have already downloaded all of my photos to move them elsewhere (yay self hosting!). But I still couldn't pull the trigger.

I plan to allow my Flickr Pro to expire after 17 years. When I think of how much money I have given them... well, I try not to do so.

Anyway, RIP Yahoo! (again), I guess?
posted by terrapin at 9:56 AM on October 29 [2 favorites]


I still have the Yahoo email I set up back in the 90's. The only purpose it still has is for spammy crap and signing up for things that require an email address.
posted by fimbulvetr at 9:57 AM on October 29


Many folks mentioning Yahoo! as their spammable email address. That's what gmail is for me now. They can harvest all the data they want but I ain't using it anymore. Haven't in about 5 years now.
posted by terrapin at 10:01 AM on October 29


I always wonder which idiot exec green lights shit like this. I always imagine it to be some 50-something white guy who's like "why not? It's Yahoo. People like Yahoo. Everyone loves Yahoo. I drunk Yahoo as a kid and I loved it."

It's deliberate, not idiocy. Simple branding spam, or why chum-bucket companies buy companies like RCA, etc - for their names and the hind-brain memory many people (esp older people confused by the bacterial growth of tech fungi) have of that name.

Saves you on marketing effort and ships units. Also why we get 200 Avenger movies, because it works well enough and better than trying to market "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind".

Look for America On-line, Compuserve and Prodigy branded masks, coming soon (please don't share if that's a thing).
posted by lon_star at 10:27 AM on October 29


My dad bought RCA TVs for years after they were a zombie nameplate because he'd always bought RCA TVs.
posted by octothorpe at 10:36 AM on October 29 [2 favorites]


Here's your AOL mask...


Look for America On-line, Compuserve and Prodigy branded masks, coming soon (please don't share if that's a thing).


Oh wait, please don't share, k I'll stop now.
posted by jeremias at 10:46 AM on October 29


I still have a Yahoo account which is my spam trap. It's really surprising how little that part of the platform has changed in 10-15 years.

The "message list with folder sidebar" thing was perfected by Eudora 25 years ago, it's only Google's occasional design tweaks that ever makes it seem like it's ever improved upon or even revised.

Simple branding spam, or why chum-bucket companies buy companies like RCA, etc - for their names and the hind-brain memory many people (esp older people confused by the bacterial growth of tech fungi) have of that name.

My favorite.
posted by rhizome at 11:05 AM on October 29


My yahoo email account turned into a trash account when I asked them to update my age (i just put in a random number when opening it - they thought I was 5 years old) so I could play their own fantasy football, and their tech support told me they couldn't change it and to open a new email address. Ok, with someone else.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:16 AM on October 29 [1 favorite]


[derail]

Rhizome, my dad worked for Bell+Howell for years, but apparently that site is a different company from this site?

[end derail]
posted by Wilbefort at 12:25 PM on October 29


They're different, but related. The other BH is some kind of online services company that descends only from the microfilm business that BH acquired in the 80s (and who has an odd way of documenting their history), and there's also a BH scanner business that is owned by what remains of Kodak. You could say those are the true descendants, but they all get to use the name in their various logotypes and "BH the TV products company" is the one who advertises. :) /derail
posted by rhizome at 1:16 PM on October 29


I still have my Yahoo email because it's got messages on there from both of my parents who are long past now. I should try to figure out the best way to archive those.

@octothorpe: MailStore Home does it for me.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 2:02 PM on October 29 [2 favorites]


Like who is this supposed to appeal to?

Gen-Xers indulging their 90's nostalgia?

(I'm not saying they'd actually fall for it, just that there's probably some marketing exec somewhere who thinks they would).
posted by gtrwolf at 7:40 PM on October 29


Say what you will about the concept and branding, but the phone in question has a microSD card slot, a removable battery, and (I think) a headphone jack: 3 features that have been lacking from most flagship phones for years now.

For $50 I'd see it as basically a perfectly adequate Android-based media player that one might also make occasional phone calls with.

Purple.
posted by glonous keming at 7:59 PM on October 29 [1 favorite]


I still use my yahoo e-mail account. And I'm scared. But anyway, I remember back when I was a tech journalist doing a thingy in San Francisco where I interviewed a Yahoo spokesperson about their Real Estate listing service... He seemed really sure of himself. It was casual.

I don't remember what became of that, but I bought some nice clothes while I was there and had a great day eating seafood down there where the ocean is.
posted by valkane at 8:01 PM on October 29 [1 favorite]


That Yahoo phone is pretty awesome! $50 is obviously a loss-leader, but for two years of usability I'd be tempted if I was in the market.
posted by rhizome at 8:32 PM on October 29


It doesn't look like a bad phone for $50. It's probably not great but I'd bet that an $800 phone isn't 16x better than it either.

You might be able to get a $300 phone that is 6x better, though.
posted by straight at 11:04 PM on October 29 [1 favorite]


You might be able to get a $300 phone that is 6x better, though.

Yeah I personally find that the 200-300 buck range is (for me) the perfect bang for the buck range. You can get decent phones that are powerful enough and have decent enough cameras but at the same time are cheap enough that if you accidentally smash them you don't have to worry that much.
posted by Literaryhero at 5:04 AM on October 30


A $50 phone has a lot of appeal. Regardless of branding.

In which case, how about something like the Nokia 1, which you don't have to root to get rid of all the cruft.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 5:59 AM on October 30


I've done well buying last generation phones on Ebay. I bought a Pixel 3 for $150 this summer and it's been a perfect phone.
posted by octothorpe at 10:13 AM on October 30


As someone who has worked at Yahoo since 1998, this always makes me sad. (Okay, so my employer isn't "Yahoo" anymore, it's Verizon Media.) I don't actually personally use any Yahoo services, but I know that mail, sports, news (also the yahoo.com front page), finance and weather are the the big remaining properties.

Also, Yahoo Japan is a mostly separate company and they managed to get critical mass on many niches there, like auctions.

For a while when people kept asking "is Yahoo still a thing?" and I'd get indignant. Now I just kinda shrug and accept that it's just a shadow of a shadow of its former self.
posted by Hamusutaa at 10:53 AM on October 30 [2 favorites]


I was all "What about Flickr?" but that hasn't been part of Yahoo! since 2017.
posted by straight at 11:58 AM on October 30


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