ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Yahoo!locaust —

This little purple piece of crap is the screenshot heard around the world.

You know, doing work with Archive Team, you can sometimes (well, often) feel you’re doing amazing work.  We got a nice run against Geocities, got a lot of attention with things, spread the word a bit… you know, heroes and all that. Raise a glass for fallen websites, pride ourselves. We’ve actually saved other stuff besides Geocities, but it’s not the kind of things that get much attention and frankly, some aren’t unique at all – many other people saved various .7z files or collections announced, we just all coordinated to spread the word among our members about grabbing it. So humility is the watchword, as well as quiet dedication to backing up what we can.

With the dropping of this screenshot, however, came a hundred calls for us to “do something” or to simply let us know, knowing we would “do something”.

If you haven’t seen the screenshot before, it was snagged off an internal status meeting amid a multi-hundred-layoff at Yahoo! and leaked to the world, and it revealed the “sunset” of a multitude of services, the “merge” of others, and “make feature” of some other ones.  Obviously “sunset” got the most attention, because that’s the kind of mealy-mouthed language one would expect out of assholes. It’s the same thinking that took “mass firings” to “downsizing” and then made it “rightsizing” because they thought “downsizing” was too negative. Those sort of assholes. The kind that run Yahoo!, in other words.

Before I go further, let me just say to anyone from Yahoo! all prepared to show up in my comment sections or somewhere else defending Yahoo!: Fuck off. If you are seriously working at Yahoo! and seriously think things are going great, and seriously think the criticisms I’ve had for them all this time are in some way not valid, then go back to your cubicle and your office wherever it is and play a few more rounds of solitaire while the cubicle walls are hoisted away, because you are on the goddamned Titanic and waiting for the third iceberg before declaring there’s trouble.

Paul Graham punched the buh-jeezuz out of Yahoo! quite nicely earlier this year, where the punches count: from the inside. I can’t beat that. What I can do is frame the current situation as to how other people reacted to Archive Team when this screenshot got out. Which was people were “sunsetting” in their pants in great numbers.

A lot of people expected us to go DING DING DING and swarm over Yahoo! like locusts. We don’t do that – we have been doing all sorts of work backing up various things, sharing stories and ideas, and when we could, improving the website.  We have no insider ability with companies like this, and we’re definitely not in any shape to foist anything onto a company when they announce they’re killing all their crap to shave a few pennies off the bottom line. So while we’ve geared up a few projects, we don’t exactly blow out press releases upon the shocking news that a company that kills its websites is killing its websites.

Let’s take Delicious. When Delicious showed up on the Sunset Skillet, a lot of people justifiably freaked out. Delicious is a bookmarking site, but also a wonderful interconnected network of slight commentary (not forums, just commentary) and tags, one of the sites that really “got” tags as a secondary layer of informational pointers for URLs.  It’s a good thing. It works well, it does what it’s supposed to, and it’s very efficient to pull data off and put it on. Now, granted, the exporting is access-restricted, but for most people that’s very good and it certainly falls under the Archive Team craziness of “Where Is Your Export”.  So, there was a pretty solid little website there – right about access to data, easy, and efficient. Of course it must be killed.

Yahoo! actually went on the offensive and claimed they weren’t going to kill Delicious but sell it, which makes me laugh, because no such thing could be true – the most glaring reason being that Yahoo’s authentication system infests every one of their properties, and a lot of people on Delicious are using Yahoo IDs. Another is that Yahoo are incompetent assholes.  Back in January of 2009, Archive Team announced that Yahoo! was not to be trusted.  Someone from Yahoo! showed up and said we were wrong. I’m having this image he was fired, as was the entire staff of Delicious. Tell me how you intend to transition a site when you fire everyone first. You don’t. A place buying it would be buying the name and maybe the right to use the software. Maybe. Who would want that?

Anyway, since the thing was announced, I got contacted by a half-dozen discrete entities all intending to pull out as much of Delicious as possible. Some are going their own way, some are interested in working within the Archive Team. Everyone agrees that sitting around hoping Delicious gets sold somewhere isn’t the way to go. So the extracting has begun.

For my own part, I have, as of this writing, pulled out 900,000 usernames out of Delicious. You know… because I could. I’ve been passing them to the other teams. They’re having a wonderful time.

I’m sure there’ll be stories aplenty for the other Yahoo! properties with extractable content.  Maybe I’ll post some thoughts about it, if it warrants it. Archive Team is doing a lot of good stuff, quietly, a lot of it with no intervention from me personally at all. When things are ready, I’m sure they’ll be made available. It is, after all, what we do.

But let’s keep two things in mind.

First, Flickr.

I am, frankly, a mixture of disappointed and sad that after Yahoo! shut down Geocities, Briefcase, Content Match, Mash, RSS Advertising, Yahoo! Live, Yahoo! 360, Yahoo! Pets, Yahoo Publisher, Yahoo! Podcasts, Yahoo! Music Store, Yahoo Photos, Yahoo! Design, Yahoo Auctions, Farechase, Yahoo Kickstart, MyWeb, WebJay, Yahoo! Directory France, Yahoo! Directory Spain, Yahoo! Directory Germany, Yahoo! Directory Italy, the enterprise business division, Inktomi, SpotM, Maven Networks, Direct Media Exchange, The All Seeing Eye, Yahoo! Tech, Paid Inclusion, Brickhouse, PayDirect, SearchMonkey, and Yahoo! Go!… there are still people out there going “Well, Yahoo certainly will never shut down Flickr, because _______________” where ______ is the sound of donkeys.

What, because they take your money? Because they’re so big? Because so many people use it and like it? Because it works well? Because it would make Yahoo! look bad? Go ahead, give me some more reasons. Flickr allows you great ability to export all your data. Get used to using it regularly.

Second, Yahoo! is shutting down Yahoo! Video next year. March 2011. March 15, 2011, to be exact. They will delete all user-generated content on that day.

Yahoo! Video was the second-most used video hosting site behind YouTube. Number 2! And all of it, all video, is going to be deleted. Thousands and thousands of videos, many of which are likely hosted nowhere else, completely gone. This is awful. I am almost positive it’ll be beyond the abilities of Archive Team to get even a tiny fraction of all that video. And why are they doing this? Some idiot middle manager’s ideas to cut costs, I’m sure – some “refocusing” of priorities or whatnot, is sitting stuck in the gullet of this decision, never to make any sense.

All I can say, looking back, is that when history takes a look at the lives of Jerry Yang and David Filo, this is what it will probably say:

Two graduate students, intrigued by a growing wealth of material on the Internet, built a huge fucking lobster trap, absorbed as much of human history and creativity as they could, and destroyed all of it.

Great work, guys.


Categorised as: computer history

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33 Comments

  1. LeMonkey says:

    May this be a lesson to all future Yahoos.

  2. Gene Buckle says:

    I think you’re under the illusion that they’re _capable_ of learning lessons. You forget, part of the MBA graduation ceremony involves having the graduate’s frontal lobe scooped out with a melon baller. This is known as a “value add”.

    Remember – any tech company run by non-tech people (aka “accountants”) is a failed company that doesn’t know it yet.

    g.

  3. Chris M says:

    Things will get ugly if Flickr goes bye bye. At least the photos are easy to grab and backup. The tags and comments aren’t though. Heck, what happens if Google finally decides YouTube burning through cash is no longer worth keeping around? Not a pretty sight considering YouTube has become the go to platform for archiving classic video people had sitting on VHS and Beta tapes the past 30 years.

  4. MCbx says:

    Maybe it’s one of many conspiracy theories, but closing of Geocities fits very well to a strange idea discussed a few months ago in many Internet bulletin boards all over the European Union – the “telecommunications package” (I’m not sure about this translation). A new law, which forces internet providers to charge customers for services in the Internet, not for the Internet. For example: Facebook x€/month, Youtube y€ etc. Without personal webpages which can be mirrored, it’s much easier to control. Even today it can be seen that we visit less different domains every day and the Internet becomes more and more centralized.
    Of course new law has been rejected by EU governement, but in the future it can be accepted, like this sick idea with mercury lightbulbs (but for example in Germany shop can label an ordinary light bulbs as “heating devices” and still legally sell them :) ).
    Sorry for my English.
    MCbx

    P.S. Data is still going and will go to http://ftp...

  5. SaForge says:

    @MCbx: I also think, that many of the new decisions from Companies are changing, because of the “crazy” new laws in Europe – as you correct say. The want to close mass-user-anonym-stuff, unrentable communities and focus on central services with more control of every single user.
    Example in my neighbour-country Germany it is/was (?) planned with the new year, that you need age-validation for every platform and comment-system and so on and also for every site, where it “could be” that there is “some stuff”, that is “not suitable” for younger users. But this means, that every photo-, graphic- and so hoster, bulletin-board,… has to integrated a complex standard-validation-system, because in every stupid comment you can post a link to a xxx-website… and many of them say now in the last weeks (also bigger companies), if the law is really coming, they close and shut down their websites and services, because of the costs and work. And then hundreds and more of online-boards and so on will close, deleted and going down.

    It is still crazy, that in germany (i’m not sure, how it is in austria) you can be hold as admin of a bulletin board, if someone post a bad comment. Let’s say, one of my users write in a board “xxx-Person John Doe is an asshole”, then I (!) have a problem, because i have to control every single posting. Show me boards and discussion-websites, where it is possible to handle this.

    Similar is the new media-law in Hungary last week… crazy things going on now in this new generation. Or the www-lock for users in france and other countries (illegal downloads) – but it also means the hosters of websites, bulletin boards and so on – or can anybody of us really controll every single and small aspect of the own blog, board and similar?! I don’t think so.

    2011~2012 i think, many of well known services, providers and hosters will going down – and a lot of text, images and thoughts from million of users will be lost – and i’m also sure, that in Europe it’s (will in the future) not easy to archive all this stuff – because of laws (it’s not allowed to safe thousands of user-names from other sites and so on, copyrights of material and so on). Dark and bad times are coming.

    Hehe and yes, the lightbulbs-story is really funny – BUT they have now stopped it to. :/

  6. Sarah says:

    Yahoo! Are not planning on selling flickr because…. *drum roll* nobody in their right mind would buy that 3-meal a day bandwidth consuming fucker off them. Except maybe Google, who seem to go through periods of cash burning insanity with astonishing regularity. The second someone appears who wants to buy that thing, who isn’t a direct competitor, it’s being sold faster than you can fry bacon on the solar surface.

  7. karl says:

    1. Yahoo!, Google et al. are *corporations*. They do not have the public interests in their mission. Their mission is to make money.

    2. As long as a kind of “public interest” aligns with their own business strategy (good or wrong), the services will give the *illusion* of a public mission.

    3. Flickr Commons is good and evil. Good because beautiful minds (Flickr Team) put that together and make the platform a support for many public organizations. Evil because this is a *temporary* solution.

    4. The commons are something which has to be taken care as a society a group of individuals and corporations working together to establish and fulfill a mission.

    5. Any individuals relying on corporate hosted services without being independent and/or without having a backup strategy and complaining about it is a fool.

    When delicious has been bought by Yahoo! I left delicious. When flickr has been bought by Yahoo! I left flickr. I knew it would be happening, and I strive for keeping my independence.

    Everyone should think about their data and what they accept to loose or not.

    http://bit.ly/freedata

  8. Bolangi says:

    Hosting and then shutting down free-to-user video, photo and other content hosting services is functionally equivalent to censorship. You get people to invest a lot of time uploading, commenting and tagging content, then just shut the whole thing down. I haven’t followed the decline and fall of Usenet archives, but it appears the ability to access and search those materials are much diminished. Whether there is a Grand Scheme(tm) or not may be endlessly debated, but even if not, one can hardly argue the brilliance of the *apparent* strategy of this newest form of effective censorship.

  9. LizR says:

    Can you tell me how do I export stuff from Flickr? I can’t work out what to do….

  10. grouch says:

    Yahoo! received the Microsoft kiss of death. Why should anyone be surprised that Yahoo! is dying?

  11. Sputnik74 says:

    THE CLOUD! THE CLOUD! EVERYONE GO AND KEEP EVERYTHING IN THE DAMN CLOUD!!
    The above is just one of the things that can happen in the cloud.

    Ergo: The Cloud is NOT your friend.

  12. Ken G. says:

    @LizR: I haven’t tried it, but the most popular solution I’ve found for exporting Flickr photos is the third-party app Bulkr.

  13. For me, the point of Flickr is not that I get to host my photos online. I could easily post them in many different places, including my personal website (and yes, I keep my own copies, about three of them for any photo). But how many people will find them elsewhere? It was thanks to the popularity of Flickr that some of my work ended up illustrating Wikipedia articles. And it was thanks to their social features that I discovered many exceptional images. It is this kind of thing will happen much less once Flickr is gone, and that will be the real loss.

  14. Marcelo says:

    Yahoo!Locaust indeed.
    This raises the often invoked subject of trusting your files to ‘cloud’ services.
    But this is definitely a critique that Yahoo was deserving for a long time!

  15. Monotreme says:

    Of course, I immediately bookmarked this on del.icio.us (which me, being an old timer, is what I still call this site).

  16. Chris says:

    Yahoo owes you nothing. If you trust some faceless and self-interested corporation with the preservation of your artifacts you’ll get exactly what you deserve in the end. This isn’t a defense of Yahoo (bunch of clueless jackasses imo), but an observation on reality.

    If Yahoo kills Flickr and Butterfield are as much to blame.

  17. jah says:

    @LizR If you are on a Mac, get Flickery, which is cheap, easy, and painless. (Not affiliated with them in any way—just a fan.)

  18. DeepGeek says:

    I gotta say, I was never a fan of comments (which is ironic as I am writing one now, so let me clarify.) The only two blogs that ever had comments I gave a damn about are here and perspectives.mvdirona.com, so if governments decide to force webmasters to act as censors, I won’t shed a tear. I mean, usually comments are like the guy who wrote something he put his heart and soul into it, and somebody comes along and bad-mouths it, or worse, puts a link to a porn (or worse) a gambling website. So, not only do I say, “fuck the cloud,” I also say “fuck web-2.0.”

    Call me old fashioned, but I still like static HTML. It might not be glamorous, but it is a workhorse, and it is just faster than a mysql database lookup. I also never liked the idea of backing up a database, that can only be reloaded back into the same PHP package that created it.

    As the US government moves into censorship more and more, the idea of being able to re-generate your webpage with an sftp upload to a fresh domain name will be more and more important.

    So call me old fashioned, but as this stuff happens to the web 2.0 crowd and the cloud crowd, I will just be able to instantly upload my whole set of webpages to a server in India or something. I feel that old workhorse technologies are enabling me-to survive the coming datapocalypse!

    DG

  19. Jeremiah Miller says:

    Someone will buy Flickr when Yahoo finally goes Chapter 7 (Chapter 11/13 out of the picture because there are no buyers/willing financiers available) and promptly monetize the shit out of it. Of course, at that point it’ll become a shitty ripoff of Photobucket, and probably still see a datapocalypse as all the freely hosted stuff, borderline pornographic content, and comments are deleted to save on the bandwidth bill. Oh, and kiss all the Creative Commons stuff goodbye, it’ll be swapped to a standard copyright, likely with some language about the new owners possessing the copyright.

    What might be best for Flickr? Some huge microstock firm like Corbis or Getty buys the IP and offers to buy the rights from the photographers. Sure, most of it is still going away, but the best will be saved by a company dedicated to preserving content and making money with it.

  20. l.m.orchard says:

    I’ve said this elsewhere, but I’ll mention it again here: Don’t count on anything being rescued-by-purchase out of Yahoo!’s leaky freighter. One of the first things done with each acquisition was to start migrating over to internally-developed technologies for indexing, authentication, deployment, storage, analytics, etc.

    And, at the time, that was a good thing: Besides money for the respective founders, the thing most of those acquisitions needed most was help scaling up to demand. Despite the management, Yahoo! has had some great in-house technology. But, now that means that any outside company seeking to acquire a Y! property will have its work cut out for it. Not impossible, but I can’t imagine the extraction process will be pleasant or worth the trouble in every case.

  21. ENKI-2 says:

    @SaForge : the united states had (and might still have) as part of the communications decency act a requirement for age confirmation on all websites with comment systems. I am unclear about whether or not it’s still on the books; there are plenty of places that don’t try to enforce it, but on the flipside, there are plenty of places (including Freenode and Facebook, and a good number of turnkey forum software packages) that require kids to lie and say they are over 13 in order to register or post. I’m not sure that anything stronger would in fact be enforcable.

  22. The Philosopher says:

    This kind of thing, this whole type of situation–companies offering free services which millions use and dump content into and then shutting them down as they do…really scares me. I’m not blaming the companies, I’m not blaming the users, it just…really. Scares. Me.

  23. Rob Lang says:

    Although I agree that Yahoo dropping delicious is bad (I have a few accounts, one is a directory of free RPGs I’ve put a lot of effort into), one little point grabbed me:

    “the most glaring reason being that Yahoo’s authentication system infests every one of their properties, and a lot of people on Delicious are using Yahoo IDs”

    Was true 5 years ago but there are now lots of authentication methods out there (such as OpenID) that would allow a third party to utilise the Yahoo account identifier without actually being part of Yahoo.

    Small point of order.

    • Jason Scott says:

      Stick with me here.

      Many of the accounts are linked to yahoo accounts and can’t be unlinked. The names and passwords and more. This is what I mean, no that yahoo’s system is the only game in town, but the account passwords are. Not all accounts have email or working email accounts or other factors,

      That is what I meant. Point of order.

  24. Jeremiah Miller says:

    Free is a price a lot of people like. Unfortunately, that means a company has to find an alternate source of revenue, which ain’t easy, either online or in real life. Oh, there are a few willing to pay for a service, but not the vast majority.

  25. Mark Grady says:

    Maybe I misunderstood, but I thought Yahoo! have always made it clear that Flickr, Yahoo Video, et al, were not archives but publishing platforms, and made it clear in their T&Cs and support pages, that you should always keep back-ups of your data offline.

    Even if you use Google’s Picasa and YouTube to host your content they make it clear as well that their intention is to publish, not archive, your content in order to monetise it and that you are responsible for keeping back-ups of your data.

    Whilst I believe Yahoo!s recent moves are non-sensical and anti-consumer I also think that anyone who relies on the Cloud entirely to hold their data is asking for trouble in the long run.

    I’m paranoid about my data and have stacks of CDROM, DVDROM and hard disks that are duplicated and regularly checked for consistency so I know my data is safe, whilst the stuff I want to share is published on the web in a variety of ways.

    The Cloud is not a safe place to archive material – all companies are ultimate transitory and can suddenly, or over time, be dispersed or destroyed just as easily as it’s water vapour namesake.

  26. While your entirely bitter post is justifiable you have to remember the old adage that says “competition is just one click away”. You have proved it.

    It may be short term pain, but in the end, crap companies die, good ones flourish and loyalty counts for zero!

  27. Sarah says:

    @The Philosopher, whilst scary it should be a lesson to any business. Simply throwing something outthere and going “we’ll figure out how to make money from it later” might have worked for Microsoft & software piracy. It’s unlikley to work with you and your web 2.0 app.

    Even google cover the basics of “plug it in to the ad network” with all their stuff. So if you find something out there that looks to good to be true and the company running it doesn’t seem to have a clue how to make it turn a profit.

    It’s probably going to die at some point.

  28. Richard Wheston says:

    “Two graduate students, intrigued by a growing wealth of material on the Internet, built a huge fucking lobster trap, absorbed as much of human history and creativity as they could, and destroyed all of it.”

    Hah. Actually, it’s more like “two graduate students, intrigued by the growing wealth available in selling Internet advertising, made a big pile of cash and retired. They owed the world nothing, and that’s exactly what the world got from them.”

  29. I use cloud-backup service Backupify to regularly backup my Flickr account to Amazon S3. Yeah, it’s cloud to cloud, so there’s some risk in there, but the end result is a much easier to redownload series of files. Besides, S3 is unlikely to disappear because Amazon actually makes money with it, it isn’t free.

    As for Yahoo! contents-destroying voracity, what I’m most afraid is its Yahoo! Groups service. Flickr at least has a paid version, and lots of paying customers, so it’s possible that the income it brings is enough to keep the thing going for along time yet. Groups, though, has lots and lots and LOTS of discussions that are nowhere else, going back over a decade. Keeping it is probably more expensive than keeping Geocities was, all the while (or so I guess) being quite as unprofitable. I wonder for how long it’ll stay around.

  30. ENKI-2 says:

    Relevant to the topic of Yahoo’s poor handling and eventual poor removal of its acquisitions:
    http://37signals.com/svn/posts/2777-what-happens-after-yahoo-acquires-you
    (In which several startups describe their elation with being bought by Yahoo, followed quickly by frustration and ditching)

  31. [...] Yahoo!locaust by Jason Scott. [...]

  32. [...] LeFurgy wijst hierbij o.a. in de richting van Brewster Kahle (Internet Archive) en Jason Scott (ASCII). Zij zijn het die met hun initiatieven bepalen welke content wordt opgeslagen (bewaard) en op [...]