RIP Yahoo Messenger: Oath is shutting down the app on 17 July with users being pushed to Squirrel
It was only a matter of time.
Oath, the company that owns Yahoo has announced it is calling a day on Yahoo Messenger – one of the original and longest-standing messenger apps of yore.
As of 17 July, the service will close and Oath will look to move its users over to Yahoo Squirrel, the invite-only app that’s currently in beta. Yahoo began experimenting with Squirrel in May and it looks remarkably like Slack. If you don’t want to use Squirrel, you can download your Yahoo Messenger archive here.
Oath hasn’t gone into detail about why its closing Yahoo Messenger but it’s likely to have fallen victim to the popularity of WhatsApp, Messenger and many, many others.
What is Yahoo Squirrel?
Yahoo Squirrel, which launched in beta last month, is an invite-only messaging app.
You can only join it if you know somebody who is already using the service, but from the outside it looks an awful lot like Slack – a Slack that’s designed for families rather than small businesses. Look closely at the images, and you’ll note that the squirrel on the left even seems to have gotten a Slack hashtag tattoo, presumably while off its squirrely face on hazelnut moonshine.
Although I’ve said Slack, it could be any number of Slack clones – Discord or Microsoft Teams to name just two. The list of features don’t really suggest Yahoo is pushing the boat out beyond a fairly standard set of abilities such as creating rooms for different topics, muting and the option to make sure everyone in a group sees important messages. It really does look very familiar indeed.
So why does Squirrel exist at all, you might reasonably ask. Well, a Yahoo spokesperson told Gizmodo that it’s all about offering “creative ways to add value to our members’ lives,” which doesn’t really clarify, given those creative ways don’t show much imagination. “Right now we’re experimenting with a new invite-only messaging app focused on improving everyday-life group communication in a fun and organised way.”
Okay, but Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Telegram already offer group messaging with a huge install base. What exactly does Squirrel offer that’s different to its many well-funded rivals? Well for one thing, Squirrel is going big on privacy. “Invite with a link, no need to share your contacts with us,” the app boasts. That may seem like a big selling point given both WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are owned by Facebook, if it weren’t for the fact that Yahoo has its own patchy history with privacy and security…