Do you have a Yahoo Group or are you thinking of making one? Are you wondering if there are alternatives to Yahoo Groups?
First, a brief history as to why you might want to consider another place for your community. Originally, Yahoo groups was a pretty good place for a community. It was a free email-based discussion group host created in 2000 when Yahoo bought eGroups and ONElist. In the beginning, you could create and subscribe to groups with any email address. Plus, you could directly add members to your mailing list, making it easy to migrate an existing physical or virtual group to Yahoo Groups.
But since then, Yahoo has changed the rules and, these days, all group moderators and members must join with a Yahoo email address. And everybody has to add themselves by going through a confirmation process. This makes it difficult to maintain a community of people with different email addresses or to use the service as a mailing list.
And the future of Yahoo groups is uncertain. Yahoo recently had a revenue downturn and has discussed regrouping around their core strengths, none of which are Yahoo groups. If only your group was a Tumblr…
But if Yahoo groups aren’t as useful anymore, what are the alternatives? Let’s look briefly at some similar community platforms with their pros and cons.
Google groups is similar to Yahoo groups. It’s free. It’s email based, so people would already be familiar with it. Plus, most people are familiar with Google and trust them.
But you’re going to run into similar problems to Yahoo groups. If some of your members don’t have Gmail accounts, they won’t really be able to use the web interface, along with other restrictions. Plus, you’re at the mercy of any changes Google might make, just the same as Yahoo groups.
Facebook groups are a popular alternative. They have quite a few useful tools, including file storage, image galleries, and the ability to schedule group events. A Facebook group can be public, private (invite only but findable), or secret (hidden, invite only) so you have some choices for who can get in. It’s also on a platform that a lot of people already use.
On the other hand, similar to Google groups and Yahoo groups, you’ll still be at the mercy of whatever changes Facebook wants to make. You’ll also suffer from Facebook’s ad-focused business model. You may also lose members during the transfer, whether because they don’t have and don’t want a Facebook account or just because they get lost. And if you have a private or secret group, you’ll need to friend everyone in your group in order to invite them, which is annoying.
You could migrate to a forum as one of many alternatives to Yahoo groups. (What’s the difference between message boards and listservs?) Forums are a bit newer than email groups in internet time, but still an older form of community. They’re nice because they keep all the threads sorted and allow new people to easily catch up and join in.
They can also be installed on your own server space, letting you have fairly good control over them if you want. If you don’t want to host your own forum, Proboards is a free, popular, and established forum hosting site.
Unlike, groups, however, forms are a pull media or technology, meaning your members have to actively interact with it. That’s also a great way to lose members. (More on push vs pull media in this post.) It is possible to set up forms to send out at least new replies to posts via email, which can help mitigate the problem of them being pull media. You’re also going to have a similar problem as you would with Facebook groups, in that you can’t import your list. Everyone will have to re-register with the forum, and you’ll probably lose people in the process.
You could use a listserv, sometimes called a listserve or an email discussion group. Listserves are similar to Yahoo groups in that they’re email based, so if you’re moving a group, your members will feel right at home. Plus, you can keep your member list intact. Listserves are typically hosted on private servers and can be free or not, depending on what you need.
Even if you don’t already have an established community, listserves are useful for other reasons. No one’s ever going to change the rules on you because the listserve is yours to maintain. You don’t have ads, popups, or cookies. Emails aren’t put into public search engines, so a listserve is private. And you can expand your community as far as it can go.
Listservs aren’t for every community. They don’t have the same accessibility as forums or the tools of Facebook groups. A good listserve host typically isn’t free like Google groups. But if you’re just looking for a stable, ad-free, easy-to-use alternative to Yahoo groups, listserves are worth checking out.
Here’s a list of listserv hosts, free and paid:
Do you have any great alternatives to Yahoo groups? Leave them in the comments!