But the site clearly was seen by some people, including children, as a comfortable space to ask the questions — sometimes important ones — they’d never dare to ask friends, families and teachers.
“Yahoo Answers was a place for people to put questions they were too embarrassed to ask the people they knew in real life,” said Justin McElroy, a co-host of the comedy podcast “My Brother, My Brother and Me,” which has featured questions from the service since 2010. “The weird, the dumb, the truly, truly demented: It all found a place on Yahoo Answers.”
Drew Davenport, a 34-year-old in Camarillo, Calif., who for seven years sifted through questions to submit to the podcast, said people told him they genuinely used the service to get through struggles at school, or to receive a sexual education they weren’t getting elsewhere.
That’s not to say the answers they got were good ones.
“Do you remember the idea of the internet that people talked about before it was really major?” he asked. “The idea that like this was going to be a global meeting place for the exchange of ideas in a free way?”
He answered: “Yahoo Answers is what we feared would happen. You got real human reaction, for better or for worse.”
The service lost its wide popularity in recent years, and there are more competitors now than there were when it was created. Quora positions itself as more of a highbrow network that is more likely to attract an expert response, and Reddit features a forum that invites people’s idle curiosity to roam free.
Yahoo, in a letter to users, said it had “decided to shift our resources away from Yahoo Answers to focus on products that better serve our members and deliver on Yahoo’s promise of providing premium trusted content.”