Yahoo Groups

I read with interest Marissa Mayer’s comments today at the Goldman Sachs Technology conference, specifically her mention of Yahoo Groups:

One of our strongholds has been Yahoo Groups, as it moves to the phone it opens up all kinds of possibilities. The phone is a much better place to do group communication.

My first startup was ONElist, which was renamed Yahoo Groups after we were acquired in August 2000. Over the past 12 plus years, I’ve watched as Yahoo did basically nothing with Groups. It’s still almost the same as when it was acquired. Yahoo has devoted only enough resources to keep it going all these years. In fact, if you try to use the site now, it often times out and is generally extremely sluggish. I don’t have current numbers, but I’ve been told that even with all the neglect, Groups still has over 100 million users. The group archives make up many petabytes of data. It is not a small service.

Email groups are great ways to communicate. As numerous people have told me over the years, Yahoo Groups have affected people’s lives in significant and profound ways. As my friends will attest, I’m at least as cynical as the next software engineer. But I think group communication is one of the most important aspects of the Internet and I truly believe that it has and continues to make the world a better, safer, more inclusive place. But Y! Groups has stagnated for 12 years.

Several months ago, I got fed up with the state of (neglect of) Groups and decided to start working on a next generation Groups service. It’s not ready yet, but it’s not too far out.

With all that, ever since Mayer took over as CEO, I’ve been watching for signs that she’d devote resources to Groups, and this is the first sign I’ve seen that they may be working on an update. They have a lot of challenges in doing so. With a service that hasn’t changed in 12 years, people have become accustomed to the interface and I believe there will be a lot of resistance from long time Groups users (which is the subject of an essay for another day). But I know that Groups can be so much more than what Y! Groups are right now. It’s only a matter of time. Whether Yahoo, or I, or someone else launches the next generation of groups, it will happen, and people will be better for it.

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Comments

  1. I definitely agree that this medium is important and it’s a shame that Y! has neglected the product for all these years. Having a group to ask questions and have discussions when our kids started school was revolutionary.

    I also agree that one of the biggest hurdles for Yahoo moving the product forward is the size and composition of the existing user base. My wife Carole ran the Groups community for Y! a few years back and can attest to the insanity that occurs when those guys change *anything*.

    Can’t wait to see what you come up with! Please let us know if you need any help.

  2. Hi Mark,

    I have been a fan of your OneList files from the earliest days. I have been terribly frustrated with the state of mailing list software for sometime now. I have been thinking about this problem forever. I am trying to maintain 3-4 different mailing/distribution lists that DOESN’T require confirmation to receive emails from group participants (because asking people to confirm is too much friction). There is no easy solution out there. https://fiesta.cc/ was great & it worked like a charm but it seems like it is shutting down. http://blog.fiesta.cc/post/17329004460/so-long . I found the service so valuable that I was using it even in its zombie state. But over the past few weeks- the mails have started bouncing & its become basically unusable. Perhaps- you can acquire it to jump start your user base?

    I would love to hear more about what you are doing & see how I can share on how it could make my life easier as a potential early user.

    Nik

Trackbacks

  1. [...] if only Yahoo would announce plans to fix Yahoo Groups. Or hire Mark to do it. There’s a huge potential there, if they bring in the right people to work on it and [...]

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