Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) is preparing a digitized time capsule to document the human condition here on planet Earth. But right now, it seems investors might wish for a time capsule of a different sort -- one to travel back in time, perhaps, to when they might have felt a little bit more upbeat. I can't blame people for wondering whether Yahoo!'s gone outer limits.

Although Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) may seem like a shoo-in for spacey endeavors (it did team up with NASA on space research, after all), Yahoo!'s the one that appears to be taking a sci-fi turn right now. Supposedly, Yahoo!'s time capsule of multimedia content will be beamed into space to show what we humans are all about . just in case there's life out there. (I can't poke too much fun -- I used to run the SETI@Home screen saver on my old Mac. Heck, you never know, right?)

Most news reports are saying that Yahoo! will use a laser to beam the digitized images onto Mexico's Teotihuacan pyramid as well as into outer space, although I did see one story reporting that Yahoo! has canceled the pyramid screening. Either way, it'll also be available via webcast.

This is also an exercise in community intelligence, since visitors to Yahoo! Time Capsule will be able to choose the content for the time capsule -- text, photos, videos, sound clips, and so forth. Yahoo!'s press release emphasized this as an anthropological project and said the time-capsule content will be sealed and saved for Yahoo!'s 25th anniversary in 2020, as well as presented to the Smithsonian. The company will also make donations to several charities, so it's not quite as "outer limits" as it may initially sound from the headlines.

Headlines like this are probably cold comfort -- or at the very least, confusing -- for Yahoo! investors at this juncture. (So are headlines about shutting down for the holidays.) Maybe Yahoo! is trying to show the strengths inherent in its large user base -- and granted, this interesting exercise may increase traffic -- or illustrate its role as a community media company. Maybe it's trying to gain some of that geek cred that Google has always had. Or perhaps it's focusing on space aliens as its next great market opportunity.

All joking aside, a multimedia presentation wiki-fying humanity may be a fun community exercise, but it very well might chafe at Yahoo! shareholders. In fact, Yahoo! shares hit a new 52-week low earlier today, and while its earnings announcement is scheduled for next week, it seems nobody's expecting much, considering Yahoo!'s recent warning. Meanwhile, this week's big news has been Google's planned acquisition of YouTube, and some people are fretting that Yahoo! may get left behind in the nascent Internet video arena. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has also launched a YouTube-like video site, called Soapbox.

I'm not as down on Yahoo! as it may seem, and in fact, I still think it's got a lot of strengths for the long haul. Meanwhile, as much as I enjoy YouTube content, I'm not that excited about Google's pricey purchase of it. However, sometimes there are ironic pieces of news that just make you wonder what kind of priorities a company has, especially when its rivals seem to be making headway.

Investors may feel a bit irritated at Yahoo!'s whimsy, and the pessimism is mounting. Maybe Yahoo! knows that in space, no one can hear you scream.

For more on related events, see the following articles from the Foolish time capsule:

Yahoo! is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Microsoft has been recommended by Motley Fool Inside Value . Kick your portfolio into orbit by trying out any of our investing newsletter services free for 30 days.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy.