News

Open Letter to Verizon: Extend the Deletion Deadline for Yahoo Groups

The OTW Open Doors Committee has sent the following letter to leadership at Verizon to request that they extend the deadline for deletion of existing archives of Yahoo Groups files and messages by at least six months. This request follows Yahoo’s announcement that Yahoo Groups will be permanently closing, and deleting all previously posted material on December 14, 2019. The OTW previously reported on the Yahoo Groups closure in its posts Yahoo Groups Closure – What You Can Do and Yahoo Groups Closure – What You Can Do – Part 2.

Please respectfully contact Verizon’s Executive Team via email or Twitter with a link to this post requesting an extension through May 14, 2020. If you are tweeting, be certain to include news groups that have covered the Yahoo shutdown, such as CNET (@CNET), TechRadar (@TechRadar), Boing Boing (@BoingBoing), or The Telegraph (@Telegraph).

Dear Verizon,

We are writing regarding the impending closure of Yahoo Groups on behalf of the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW), a nonprofit organization run by and for fans to provide access to and preserve the history of fanworks and fan cultures.

Due to its unique status as a large nonprofit focused on fandom advocacy, the OTW has a major presence in fandom. The OTW is made up of over 800 volunteers from all over the world, and our best-known project, the Archive of Our Own (AO3), has over five million fanworks, two million registered users, and over 1.4 million unique visitors per month. This year, the AO3 won a Hugo Award for Best Related Work, and, along with Yahoo, was listed by Popular Mechanics as one of the 50 most important websites of all time (https://www.popularmechanics.com/culture/g29575328/most-important-websites/). Other OTW projects include Fanlore, the fandom history wiki, and Open Doors, which rescues fanworks archives that are at risk of disappearing from the Internet.

The OTW’s main concern regarding the effective closure of Yahoo Groups is for its long-term impact on online fandom history and online history as a whole. Yahoo Groups was a fandom hub for more than two decades, and many of the fanworks saved there are not duplicated anywhere else, to say nothing of the conversations and other ephemera. While the OTW is primarily concerned with fandom, there are over 5 million Groups in total with countless messages and files, and hundreds of millions of people who will be affected by the loss of almost 20 years of data and history.

Open Doors and Fanlore, among other projects, are currently working hard to help preserve these works, messages, and other data, but saving everything before the time limit is simply impossible. Open Doors normally receives one or two requests each month from moderators seeking to transfer their archives to the AO3; since the announcement on October 16 that Yahoo Groups was closing, we have received over 40 requests from Yahoo Groups moderators alone.

We are using all of our official channels to inform people about the closure, as well as coordinating with other preservation projects such as YahooGeddon and the Archive Team. We are also fielding requests from members and moderators to help download and save files and messages from their Groups, and discussing the creation of a dark archive to store these downloads until more permanent methods of preservation can be found. Unfortunately, the Archive Team’s automated download program has been blocked by the Yahoo Groups servers, so we are forced to do what we can by hand and are therefore extremely limited in what we can save.

Saving Yahoo Groups is going to require a great deal more time and support from Verizon. Although Verizon promised users they could download their Groups data via the Privacy Dashboard, many users are being told, “Your download request has been completed, but no data of this type is available in your account.” The GetMyData sets are also incomplete, often missing files and photos. Instead, people are having to copy-paste, manually download, or utilize specialized software in order to save their Groups. To make matters worse, because Verizon has chosen to limit downloads to a few weeks, moderator and members, along with the Archive Team and Wayback Machine, are being locked out or blocked and prevented from accessing their data.

Furthermore, many Groups—especially in the EU, South America, and Asia—have not yet been informed of the Yahoo Groups closure. This is in part because Verizon has not made an official, widely posted announcement and in part because the Yahoo Groups mailing lists have been broken since 2013, with mail arriving days or weeks late, or not at all.

Therefore, Verizon needs to extend the deadline to allow time to get the word out to Yahoo Groups owners about the closure, time to fix its download request feature, and time for users to access their data. Based on the number of groups these teams’ combined efforts are trying to save, the rate at which they are being saved, and the fact that many Yahoo Group moderators are still being informed of the closure, we are requesting that six months be added to Verizon’s deadline, so that data from Yahoo Groups will not be deleted until May 14, 2020.

There is a long history of large websites losing information without a trace. One of Open Doors’ first projects was a last-minute scramble to rescue GeoCities sites. MySpace deleting a decade of content is a recent example. This is not uncommon in new media that is not yet considered worthy of preservation, but with your assistance, Yahoo Groups can be saved from being the latest entry on a tragic list of websites that simply disappeared forever. Other tech companies have shown a callous disregard for the value of user’s memories, experiences, and history, but by granting this extension, Verizon can demonstrate that it truly values its users and the important role that Yahoo Groups has played in their online lives.

Sincerely,
The Organization for Transformative Works

Yahoo Groups Closure – What You Can Do – Part 2

Recently we posted that that Yahoo Groups will be permanently closing, and deleting all previously posted material on December 14, 2019. This post is an update to our previous post, to signal boost current preservation efforts.

Before we launch into details, we have two requests.

Many Yahoo Group members and moderators have no clue that Yahoo Groups will be deleting their files, photo and message archives on December 14, 2019. We need everyone who is a member of a Yahoo Group to copy and paste the message below into their Yahoo Groups and to also ask that every other Yahoo Group member who is reading your message to copy and paste the same message to their Yahoo Groups. If we want to save our fandom history, we need to do what we have always done and use our networks of fan friends to help one another.

Yahoo Groups will be deleting our files, photos and message archives on December 14, 2019. Many moderators and Groups remain unaware. Please forward this message and this link: https://opendoors.transformativeworks.org/yahoo-groups-rescue-project/ to all of your Yahoo Groups and ask your fellow Group members to do the same. And then request a copy of your Yahoo Groups data from Verizon at: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/getmydata

The second request is to ask each of you to request a copy of your Yahoo Groups directly from Verizon before Dec 1, 2019. The request is a simple, one click from within your Yahoo account. When the data arrives, hold on to it and check back here for next steps.

And that’s it: Alert your Yahoo Groups, ask your fellow Yahoo Group members to alert their Yahoo Groups and tell everyone about Verizon’s “GetYourData” one click backup option.

Now our update on the various preservation efforts.

Open Doors

Open Doors is working with the OTW’s Board and Legal Committee to determine what we can store and/or import to the AO3. Meanwhile, we are accepting preservation requests from moderators and members of Yahoo Groups, and we are assisting them to backup their groups. Contact us if this is you!

Yahoo Groups Fandom Rescue Project
A fan group working to get information out and preserve what they can from fandom Yahoo groups. See this document for current ways you can help – including backing up groups, requesting data from Yahoo/Verizon, nominating groups for rescue and more.

Archive Team
The Archive Team is working on taking backups of public groups, with the intent to submit the data to the Internet Archive. You can submit a request for them to backup a group using their nomination form. The nomination form also has an email where moderators can give permission for their Groups to be archived. They’ve also developed a Chrome extension to simplify and coordinate signing up to at-risk groups and have moved many fandom groups to the top of their queue (note: the extension also helps them download non-fandom groups).

Helping these teams

If you’re a moderator who’d like to potentially import your group to the AO3, contact Open Doors and we’ll talk to you about options. For more updates on what’s happening, see announcements or check back on this page.

If you’d like to directly help rescue teams and you want to save only fandom groups, you can use this form to nominate fandom groups OR you can go directly to the public spreadsheet to find nominated groups that still need downloading. (General downloading instructions are here.) If you want to help save fandom groups and many other non-fandom groups, see Archive Team’s chrome extension. Both are worthy efforts and both face a hard deadline of Dec 14.

Yahoo Groups Closure – What You Can Do

Spotlight on Open Doors banner

Yahoo! has announced that Yahoo Groups will be permanently closing, and deleting all previously posted material on December 14, 2019. Some of you may be wondering what you can do to preserve fannish content posted to Yahoo Groups before it is deleted, and what the Organization for Transformative Works can do to help.

What can Open Doors do?

The Open Doors project is dedicated to offering shelter to at-risk fannish content. At this time the Organization for Transformative Works has no way of serving as a replacement to active Yahoo Groups that would like to continue to function as groups or mailing lists. However, we are prepared to work with moderators to preserve fanworks from their groups on the Archive of Our Own and provide tools so YahooGroups mods and users can archive messages and other content.

We have two processes in place — one to move fanworks from Yahoo Groups onto the Archive Of Our Own, and one to download and preserve messages and other content from Yahoo Groups in file systems so moderators and Yahoo Groups users have more than nine weeks to figure out how to preserve and possibly share that content.

Open Doors can only import fanworks archived in Yahoo Groups onto the Archive of Our Own with the consent of the moderator(s). If you are a moderator and would like to import fanworks from your Yahoo Group(s) to AO3, you are welcome to contact Open Doors via our contact form.

While fanworks posted to public Yahoo Groups can be imported using our usual process, we have internal restrictions on what fanworks we can import from private Yahoo Groups, to protect the privacy of fan creators and respect their copyright of their fanworks. Since Yahoo’s announcement is sudden news for everyone, including us, we are still working out the fine points of what we can and cannot import from restricted groups based on the Archive of Our Own Terms of Service. However, moderators are still welcome to contact Open Doors and discuss preservation options for their groups. If we cannot import a group’s fanworks to AO3, we can direct moderators to other fandom preservation efforts that are taking place.

Because the content in many Yahoo Groups has historical, cultural and sociological value to each Group’s members, and also to fandom-focused scholars, Open Doors is also open to providing storage of Yahoo Groups backups that are assembled by moderators and non-moderators alike. Please note that at this time we cannot promise how or if the backups we store will be able to be migrated or accessed in the future by anyone other than the uploader(s), the moderator(s), the Open Doors team and affiliated volunteers.

What can you do – if you are a moderator of a Yahoo Group?

If you are a moderator, you can contact Open Doors via our contact form. You can also email your group notifying them of the closure and encouraging members to save their fanworks.

Right now, we believe the most important thing for any administrators to do, if they are interested in preserving fanworks from their Yahoo Group, is to download and back up those fanworks, as it is likely that the ability to do so will diminish or disappear as Yahoo Groups shuts down. Open Doors can then work with moderators to figure out whether we can import fanworks from their group. Information on how to download files and messages from groups can be found here.

What can you do – if you are a member of a Yahoo Group?

Anyone who posted their own fanworks to a Yahoo Group is welcome to post those fanworks to AO3 themselves. You can download your own fanworks and upload them to AO3 at any time. If you need an AO3 account, you can request an invitation at this link.

If you’re not a moderator, but are willing to download the files and messages from a group, please do so to help preserve them! You can find information about how to do this here. You can send these to Open Doors for storage, and we will store them for you. Please note that at this time we cannot promise how or if the backups we store will be able to be migrated or accessed in the future by anyone other than the uploader(s), the moderator(s), the Open Doors team, and affiliated volunteers.

Additionally, If you are not a moderator but would like to see a Yahoo Group preserved, you can contact us via our our contact form with a link to the Yahoo Group and, if you have it, contact information for the moderator. You can also contact the moderator to request that they get in touch with us.

If you would like to help preserve the history of a Yahoo Group, please consider documenting it on Fanlore. If you’re new to wiki editing, no worries! Check out the new visitor portal, or ask the Fanlore Gardeners for tips. Fanlore has also recently made a helpful Tumblr post with tips for preserving the history of Yahoo Groups.

Thank you for your interest in helping Open Doors to preserve fannish content from Yahoo Groups!