The All New Yahoo! eFail Client

So let's say you're looking around for a Web-based email client. Even though the Application Service Provider industry has struggled, many people want Web-based email. So when you evaluate an email client, what are you looking for?

You probably want to be able to send email. You probably want to be able to receive email. In fact, I'll go out on a limb and suggest you might want to read the email you receive. So when you are looking at email clients, what's the one feature you really, really want?

You might think, I dunno, that email is an important feature of email clients. Yahoo! thinks you want to send e-cards.

So I bop over to this blog to whine and moan about the atrocity that Yahoo! Mail is becoming and lo and behold, the top post on is salva explaining that Yahoo! Mail is dropping his email. This is bad. Really bad. I'm beginning to think that Yahoo! is turning into AOL. Maybe, just maybe, it's time for this company to go away. I'd hate for that to happen, but given what I'm about to say, I think more than a few heads will nod in agreement.

My brother Greg is a psychiatric nurse. He has a hard job. He gets threatened by patients. He gets attacked by patients. He talks them out of suicide or finds an old patient is dead and now there's an inquiry, etc. He carries a pager with him. A pager might seem, well, quaint, but it's mandatory. You'll notice many emergency services people carry them. You know why? Because when I dial your pager, you get a page. Period. If I send you a text, you may get it. You may not. You'll usually get it today. You might get it tomorrow. Unfortunately, SMS messaging usually doesn't offer SLAs which meet critical needs. Texting is like UDP is like Yahoo! Mail: the chance that your message will be sent/received is a definite possibility of a firm maybe.

No, that's not fair. Texting and UDP are more reliable than Yahoo! Mail today.

I first started complaining about them in September of last year. Their new service is beautiful, easy-to-use, and crap. I am sick and tired of clicking on an email and being told that my message could not be loaded and would I kindly click here to try again? I'm tired of getting some obscure error message with an undecipherable error code and a polite suggestion that I should wait a few minutes and try again. Or maybe I should just reload my mail client.

Screw that. I switched back to the old email client and discovered that Yahoo! has found ways to break a bog-standard HTML page in lovely Web 2.0 glory. Today, I clicked on an email and it opened up (hallelujah!), and then immediately redirected to my inbox. Helpful. Oh, and the back button doesn't work. I click "back" and get a "loading..." message at the top of the screen. Maybe it goes back. Maybe it doesn't. If it fails, it fails silently, making you wonder if you really clicked that back button. Sometimes when it takes me back, it takes me back to a freshly loaded page. That's nice, but sometimes I really, really want to go back to that page I had loaded in my cache. Yahoo! apparently thinks that I don't need this, so they don't provide it.

Yahoo!: I know how to use the back button in a browser. Stop f*ing with it. People complained about this over 10 years ago. People are complaining about this today. Keep your frickin' grubby little hands off of that back button. How can you have been in business this long and not remembered one of the basic "no-nos" of the Web?

Moving along, sometimes I click on a folder and I get to that folder. Sometimes nothing happens. Sometimes I go to a completely different folder. Sometimes I get an error message and they politely request I wait a few minutes and try again. Sometimes I select a bunch of messages in a folder, click "mark as read", wait, get redirected to an entirely different folder and find out that my messages were not marked as read. So I have to switch to the new version of Yahoo! Mail, hope it loads (not on Chrome on Ubuntu so I have to switch to Firefox), and then attempt to mark the messages as read because it's marginally more reliable in their new version. Yahoo!: forget about AJAXy sexiness for the old client. People use the old client because they want the old client. We know how to use it. I'm guessing your bandwidth costs will go up if you switch from AJAX to bog-standard HTML, but what do you want? Higher bandwidth costs and happy users or lower bandwidth costs and "Yahoo! eFail" blog posts?

These and related problems have been going on for months. Given how we read in the press about Yahoo! striving to stay to find a focus and stay relevant, you would think they would pay more attention to one of their highest profile offerings. However, since they have a Yahoo! Mail Blog, I figured I could read a bit about what's happening and maybe, just maybe, get an idea of what's going on an when it might be resolved.

No. Their blog is just a series of press releases. The closest I found was a small, one-paragraph blog entry in October of last year, mentioning that a small fraction of Yahoo! Mail users may have experienced intermittent email issues earlier today. I'm guessing "small" referred to font size. Oh, and comments are closed for that post.

The kicker to all of this? I'm already paying £11.99 a year for this lousy Yahoo! Mail service. Got that? I'm paying for the privilege of not being able to check my email. I'm a complete and utter fool.

So what are my options? I genuinely prefer the new Yahoo! Mail client's look and feel to gmail, but gmail has been more consistently reliable and when they do, they tell you what happened. It's direct and to the point. However, I've been using email for a long, long time. I want folders and I want to filter my email into those folders. Google doesn't think this is important, so they don't offer it (do they and I'm just more clueless than normal?). This is the killer feature for me (aside from, you know, having email) and maybe I'm just a dinosaur, but I want it.

So what are my alternatives? The main thing I want is email. Period. I don't want to set up and administer my own box. I don't want a company I don't know about who might not be there tomorrow. I know several people who are happy with Pobox, but I don't want to spend $50US a year for Webmail. But is that what I need to do to get a service I can trust? That's about £32 pounds at the current exchange rate, almost triple what I'm paying now with fewer features and far less storage.

4 Comments

"I want folders and I want to filter my email into those folders." - Google renamed them 'labels' - same thing-ish (other than you can't have folders in folders, or labels in labels).

But filtering works the same.

I'd play with gmail.

Sure, it has "labels", but if you don't believe the hype, they function like folders. If you plug in an imap client, they really function like folders.

The main difference is your mail can be dual homed, because it can live in two folders at once (because they are labels not folders). I don't see how this matters in practise.

And there are filters. There are limits to what the filters can do (you can't filter on arbitary headers, only the ones Google think matter). But you can do a lot.

And you can always enable imap, plug in any client you like and treat google like a backend datastore and layer your client on top. I see no reason you couldn't run squirrelmail as a frontend using gmail as an imap data store backend.

Yeah, it sucks that they broke the old (i.e. "sort of working") interface, but I still use their lousy webmail because they're not the people tracking my searches and serving my ads. There are no good webmail options.

@Ranguard, You can have folders in folders (via IMAP) if you use labels that look like directory structures: 'dir', and 'dir/subdir'.

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About Ovid

user-pic Have Perl; Will Travel. Freelance Perl/Testing/Agile consultant. Photo by http://www.circle23.com/. Warning: that site is not safe for work. The photographer is a good friend of mine, though, and it's appropriate to credit his work.