The Deletion of Yahoo! Groups and Archive Team’s Rescue Effort

Yahoo! Groups circa July 2001

On December 14, everything ever posted to Yahoo! Groups in its 20-year history will be permanently deleted from the web. Groups will continue running as email-only mailing lists, but all public content and archives — messages, attachments, photos, and more — will be deleted.

You have until then to find your Yahoo login, sign into their Privacy Dashboard, and request an archive of your Yahoo! Groups.

For me, it took ten full days to get an email that my archive was ready to download — are they doing this by hand!? — but it appears complete: it contained a folder for every group I belonged to, each containing their own ZIP files for messages, files, and links.

The messages archive is a single plain-text file in Mbox email format with every message every posted to the group. That’s enough for me, but if you wanted, you could import into Thunderbird or any other mail app that support Mbox.

In the late ’90s and early 2000s, I belonged to several Yahoo! Groups (and its earlier incarnation, eGroups) for niche online communities, former jobs, small groups of friends, and weird internet side projects. Until the launch of Google Groups, it was the de facto free way to easily set up a hosted mailing list and discussion forum.

The Archive Team wiki charts the rise and fall of Yahoo Groups, showing a peak in 2006, and rapid fall after that.

Yahoo groups date created.png

Many of these private groups are effectively darkweb, accessible only to members of the group. If you don’t save a copy of the private groups you belong to, it may very well be lost for good.

Archive Team’s Rescue Effort

As you’d expect, the volunteer team of rogue archivists known as Archive Team are working hard to preserve as much of Yahoo! Groups as possible before its shutdown.

Their initial crawl discovered nearly 1.5 million groups with public message archives that can be saved, with an estimated 2.1 billion messages between them. As of October 28, they’ve archived an astounding 1.8 billion of those public messages.

Unfortunately, archiving the files, photos, attachments, and links in those groups is much harder: you have to be signed in as a member to view that content, which requires answering a reCaptcha. If you’d like to help answer reCaptchas, they made a Chrome extension to assist with the coordination effort.

If you’d like to nominate a public Yahoo! Group to be saved by Archive Team, you can submit this form. If you’d like them to archive a private group, you can send a membership invite to this email address and it’ll be scheduled for archiving. More details are on the wiki.

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