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Next month Yahoo!’s time capsule will reveal the distant past… of 2006

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Yahoo! screen, 2006
Yahoo! screen, 2006
Photo: Scott Barbour (Getty Images)

We explore some of Wikipedia’s oddities in our 6,000,157-week series, Wiki Wormhole.

This week’s entry: Yahoo! Time Capsule

What it’s about: The past! Specifically, the distant, forgotten, bygone era of… 2006. Yes, internet portal Yahoo!, looking ahead to a future in which Yahoo! would certainly still be a household name that was never supplanted by a newer search engine, sealed a time capsule in November 2006, so its primitive way of life could be explored by the cyborgs, Vulcans, and damned dirty apes of the far-flung future. And by far-flung, we mean, a month from now, as on March 2, 2020, the Yahoo Time Capsule is to be opened, so those tinny voices from 2006 can call to us through the mists of time.


Biggest controversy: As well as being sealed for the distant future, the capsule was originally intended to be “beamed with a laser into space from a Mexican pyramid,” for the benefit of any aliens who might be listening. Shockingly, the part of the plan that went wrong wasn’t the laser into space, or the alien audience, but the pyramid. Mexico denied the use of Teotihuacan’s Pyramid Of The Sun, fearing damage to the nearly 2,000-year-old architectural treasure. Yahoo! settled for broadcasting images from the capsule onto a cliff at its fallback site, Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico.

Thing we were happiest to learn: While Yahoo’s timeframe wasn’t ambitious, its content was. Back in ’06, it left the capsule open to submissions, and accepted 170,857. The submissions included audio, video, text, and images, as well as comments on the above. “It is thought” (in a rare instance of Wikipedia not sourcing information in any way) that it’s one of the largest compilations of digital media in the world.


Thing we were unhappiest to learn: The thing that may have changed the most since 2006 is Yahoo!. At its peak, Yahoo! was a wildly successful company, and one of the most viewed websites on the internet. But that peak is decidedly in the past, as the site’s popularity declined through the 2010s, until the company was sold to Verizon in 2017. Wikipedia doesn’t even seem sure Yahoo!’s still going (it is), as the web portal’s Wiki page reads, “It provides or provided a web portal, search engine… and related services” (emphasis ours).

Best link to elsewhere on Wikipedia: Slightly more ambitious are the Westinghouse Time Capsules, created for the World’s Fairs of 1939 and 1964, set to be opened in the year 6939, five millennia after the original was buried 50 feet below Flushing Meadows, New York. Westinghouse created a new metal alloy specifically for the occasion—Cupaloy, or 99.4% copper, tempered with chromium and silver. Westinghouse claims Cupaloy is as strong as steel but won’t corrode over thousands of years, because instead of rusting, it actually attracts deposits of more metal. The term “time capsule” was coined for the 1939 collection, which included literature, art, and news on microfilm (as well as instructions on how to build a microfilm projector), Camel cigarettes, an RKO newsreel, and various seeds, fabrics, metals, and plastics. The ’64 capsule included updated materials referring to atomic energy and the nascent space program.

Further Down The Wormhole: Earlier we mentioned the Pyramid Of The Sun; a perusal of Wikipedia’s List Of Tallest Pyramids shows it to be behind La Danta in Guatemala, the Great Pyramid Of Giza, its neighbors Khafre and the Red Pyramid, the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, the Bent Pyramid in Dahshur, and the Great Pyramid Of Cholula, one foot taller and also located in Mexico.

Our much-politicized neighbor to the south is one of America’s biggest trading partners, and both countries were participants in NAFTA. While conservatives dislike that trade agreement and love to blame Bill Clinton for it, it was in fact signed by his predecessor, George H.W. Bush. Our 41st president was only the second to begat a future president, George W. Bush. W left office as the least popular president in modern history, and he nearly left office ahead of schedule. We’ll look at the Efforts To Impeach George W. Bush next week.