Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Yahoo Groups is largely shutting down; the business model arguments are troubling

Last night, I learned (belatedly) that Yahoo Groups is shutting down most of its functionality, including the ability to publish, and will revert to privatized corporate service (a little bit analogous to Google’s shutting down most of Google-plus). The service did give a one-week extension until Oct 28 on the right to publish on it.

Users were even confronted with a clumsy way to save their work.

I found out which Elliot Harmon, an activism director at Electronic Frontier Foundation, tweeted the question as to whether this was inspired by FOSTA?

Maybe partially, but this seems to be a business model issue.  The India Times seems to have the best explanation.  The competition with Facebook Groups is said to be a factor.

We’ve seem other shutdowns.  America Online terminated its Hometown content publishing in 2007, but facilitated a conversion to Blogger.  I had used it as a “backup” to my own doaskdotell and previously hppub sites.  Geocities apparently terminated in 2009.

The Paul Rosenfels Community (e.g. Ninth Street Center in NYC) used to be on Geocities and I believe Yahoo Groups.  Some libertarian groups existed on Yahoo!   I think the Libertarian Party of Minnesota had one when I lived there (1997-2003).  I believe I at one time had tree or four articles on these groups (around the year 2000) which I did not maintain.

But today the Internet business models of big platforms are coming under fire, based on whether you buy the narrative that the models facilitate radicalization.  I think that’s overblown, unless you mean by radicalization a merely dismissive attitude toward identity and intersectional groups as such.

Richard Stengel argued in the Washington Post “Why America needs a hate speech law”, seeking to weaken the First Amendment, which he sees as an outlier in the civilized world;  and he seems dismissive that the world can really work on an idea of individualized “personal responsibility” when groups are so unequal.  It’s true that radicalization follows nihilism, which can occur if people think they don’t matter and have nothing to lose.
My own business model (mostly stuff that is free and is supported by past accumulated assets) can certainly come into question, and I have grown increasingly concerned about its tolerability in the past eighteen months (with my “announcement” of termination of most stuff at the end of 2021, when my main domain name registration would expire).  There is a growing sense (not often discussed openly) that individualized speech following my own model weakens the incentive for "moderates" to join others in participating in politics in the usual way (outside of simply voting), inviting extremism and authoritarianism.  It’s actually very hard to make “objectivity” in content support itself, and claims one can do so forever will seem pretentious and predicated on unearned advantage and inequality.  But in baseball, unearned runs count.

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