How Yahoo Answers Shaped the Way We Use the Internet

The end of an era

Key Takeaways

  • Yahoo Answers is shutting down after 15 years. 
  • In its heyday, Yahoo Answers helped connect strangers, provide answers to questions we all have, and gave us some laughs. 
  • At its worst, experts say it led to misinformation and bullying.
The Yahoo! logo on a laptop with the page overlaying the background.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

After 15 years of providing the internet with endless humor and the answers to our burning questions, Yahoo Answers will shut down on May 4. 

Long before Reddit became the front page of the internet or Quora was the go-to answer forum, Yahoo Answers provided an entire generation with a sense of community through shared questions. Though the service experienced both good and bad times, experts say this truly marks the end of an internet era. 

"Yahoo Answers were a remnant of a time that is already well behind us; a time when search results weren’t Google search results by default when they were a lifelike mix of human knowledge, curiosity, and ignorance," wrote Mark Coster, owner and chief editor of STEM Toy Expert, to Lifewire in an email. 

The Good 

At its core, Yahoo Answers helped people find solutions to their problems or questions, whether it was finding out how to work a lawnmower or more of the now-viral questions like "What happen when get pergenat?" or "How do you make a weeji board?" 

Alex Perkins, the co-founder of All the Stuff, described Yahoo Answers as "a sanctuary for the confused."

"There wasn’t an omniscient, AI-powered algorithm that would sift through websites and serve you the most relevant ones (or the highest bidders, for that matter)."

"It was a place where you could ask anything, even the weirdest of questions that people were probably too afraid to ask in real life," Perkins wrote to Lifewire in an email.

"Way before there were Snapchat and TikTok, it was Yahoo Answers that provided us with this amazing window into the life of other people."

Others say Yahoo Answers was one of the first, and possibly the last, positive community spaces of the internet before social media turned online communities into trolling, misinformation, and comparing yourself to others. 

"The original intention and creation of [Yahoo Answers], well could be described as base-good," wrote Erin Staples, a community builder for Journ Beauty

"We came together to reach out, help one another out, regardless of where one may be in life.  The intention and purpose of this little online forum was to help one another out.”

And, of course, the site proved to be comedy gold when you open up the ability to ask any question you want to the internet.

This sense of community brought together by questions and comedy signifies the end of an era, according to Coster. Even though there are now sites like Quora and Reddit, these wouldn’t exist without Yahoo Answers. 

"Unlike Quora, you couldn’t find marketers [on Yahoo Answers] who would answer your question so they could squeeze in a link to a product or service," he said. 

"There wasn’t an omniscient, AI-powered algorithm that would sift through websites and serve you the most relevant ones (or the highest bidders, for that matter)."

The Bad 

However, since it required no expertise, Yahoo Answers often led to ignorance, misinformation, and trolling. Before cyberbullying and trolling were even coined terms, Yahoo Answers was one of the first online spaces to allow these things to happen, paving the way for an entire culture of online bullies to thrive.

"I remember Yahoo Answers being used as an early form of cyberbullying when I was in high school," wrote Fraser Barker, editor at Wilderness Redefined, to Lifewire. 

Closeup of a human eye with a Yahoo! web page reflected over the pupil.

Scott Barbour / Getty Images

"Some kids would post mean questions about others and share it around the school." 

And while the posts like, "Can you get pregnant from a hot tub?" are fun to laugh at, Simone Dyankoff, a public relations manager at My Speech Class, said that these types of questions were very telling of the failure of the education system. 

"[Yahoo Answers] exposed glaring holes in reproductive health education, mental health support, and counseling in schools," Dyankoff wrote to Lifewire in an email. 

However, as flawed and outdated as it might have been, Yahoo Answers will forever go down as an important part of the internet, and it will be missed. 

"It was definitely a huge part of our internet culture," Perkins added. "Now we'll never know the title of that song that goes da daaa da da daaa."

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