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Yahoo revises Web mail: social networking, content-based ads, still no free downloading

At midnight, Yahoo introduced a redesigned version of its Web-mail site, Yahoo Mail. And then a funny thing happened: Nothing. No Twitter chatter, no Facebook comments by friends, no late-night posts on the usual tech blogs.

The Internet can be so cruel sometimes.

But it can also be perceptive: Yahoo's relaunched Web mail--available at features.mail.yahoo.com--probably won't have veterans of its older interface feeling terribly lost.

yahoo_mail_beta_logo.png

Posts on its corporate and e-mail blogs point to such changes as faster performance, integrated social networking, photo slideshows and video playback.

But if you ask a randomly-chosen Yahoo Mail user what's new about the site, you're more likely to hear "it's purple"--the new design echoes the eggplant hue of mobile versions of Yahoo's service.

It does feel a little faster to log in (see Yahoo's developer blog for reasons why), but searches took about the same time, as measured with a stopwatch application.

Just like before, Yahoo Mail greets you with a "What's new" page that doesn't show your inbox, instead highlighting news headlines and social-networking updates. You can now add Facebook and Twitter updates to this menu, but the crowded page only leaves room to view six tweets at a time.

Worse yet, the instant-messaging invitations that the old interface hid behind tabs--all spam, in my recent experience--now pop up in front of the rest of the page.

Composing, reading and organizing messages all work mostly as before. Although you can view Flickr and Picasa slideshows and watch Flickr and YouTube clips from inside the Yahoo Mail window, the site doesn't make attaching your own media any easier--it has no answer to Gmail's elegant drag-and-drop file-attachment interface.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., firm's blog posts don't mention another change to Yahoo Mail: Like Google's Gmail, it now indexes the contents of your messages to try to present more relevant advertising. A FAQ explains how that works and how to turn it off--an option unavailable at Gmail.

(The ads I saw this morning showed none of the sometimes-alarming specifity of Gmail ads. I'll consider that a feature, not a bug.)

With this update, Yahoo again failed to catch up to AOL, Gmail and Microsoft's Hotmail by allowing users to download their messages to their computers using free, standard mail protocols. If you want to back up your Yahoo Mail, you'll still have to pay $19.99 for a Yahoo Plus account or muck around with third-party tools.

Until the company lets me take my data with me, I can't see using my Yahoo Mail account as something more than a throwaway address for site registrations. Can you? What's your read on the new features?

By Rob Pegoraro  | October 27, 2010; 6:31 AM ET
Categories:  E-mail  
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Comments

I use it as a throw away too. The user name I chose reflects it too, toss it.

Posted by: tbva | October 27, 2010 8:28 AM | Report abuse

I am guessing the end of Yahoo's troubles are nowhere in sight.

This is another tech related corporation taken over by people from financial wheeler dealer huckers who only have $$$$ in their heads.

Posted by: bm66535 | October 27, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

The video labeled "See How Yahoo! Mail Beta Transforms Your Email Experience" is just a commercial... no info at all about what new features they've intro'd.

I'd like to see a Yahoo mail that actually moves beyond beta... The other "new" yahoo mail was beta for years and you still had to revert to the ancient v1.0 mail system to tweak some settings like filters.

Attachments remain stuck in the smoke signals era. To drag & drop, you gotta install an add-on, and that doesn't work consistently for me.

I've been a Yahoo user since 1999... same address. I think their spam filters are pretty good and have gotten better.

One feature that was lost when Yahoo moved to the last round of improvements was being able to see messages from only those in your address book. Why would such a logical filter get dropped? Please bring it back!!

Is there a way to shut off chat altogether? I've never used it &, yup, it's basically a spam pathway.

Posted by: capitolhilldc | October 27, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

My Yahoo email is my primary personal email. Back in 2003 I switched from Hotmail (leave no spam behind) to Oddpost. Oddpost was way ahead of most webmail back then with a pared down Outlook-like (Outlook-lite) clean interface, drag and drop and the ability to use the keyboard more effectively. Unfortunately Yahoo acquired Oddpost in 2005 and that meant that I ended up with Yahoo. I have been pretty satisfied with Yahoo mail since then and it does seem to have a pretty effective spam filter. I am surprised to read that it isn't possible to download Yahoo mail for offline viewing. I used Zimbra (http://www.zimbra.com/products/desktop.html) for that for some time until I realized that i really didn't need that capability because I was able to reply most email on my Blackberry and that meant that i didn't even need an offline client on my PC.

The new design looks ok. It is Oddpost refined. I thinking switching email addresses is a pain but I might make the inevitable switch to gmail eventually.

Posted by: locomotive_breath | October 27, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

So you don't mind advertising as long as it is completely irrelevant? If it might be of interest to you - you don't like it? I understand the desire for privacy - and getting rid of ads entirely makes sense to me. But if I'm not willing to pay not to see the ads, I'd rather that they might be of interest.

Posted by: PierreB1 | October 27, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Does Yahoo! still kick you out after 24 hours/1 week of being signed in? The number one reason I don't use Yahoo! is because on my home computer, that is a level of security I don't need and can't turn off. Rather than re-sign in to my email all the time, I just use a different service.

Posted by: macross2 | October 27, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

When Yahoo! dropped free pop access, I dropped Yahoo. When they failed to add IMAP access and google did it sealed the grave for me.

I still check my yahoo account occasionally-I get message alerts using My Yahoo, which I still like- and it's filed with spam. So for me to come back it would need not only features comparable to gmail (imap in particular) but also a better spam filter. I get more spam (true spam, not what google flags as spam but actually is from a company I've given my email address to) in a week on Yahoo than a year on gmail.

Posted by: ah___ | October 27, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

I didn't spend a lot of time on it, but I didn't see a way to open a message in a new tab. I like to middle mouse click on a number of new messages to open them all and then tab through them closing each tab in turn. Maybe I developed that style because the interface was so slow that my way lets me do something useful while waiting for a message to load. It's still intolerably slow, so I still want my way.

Since you mentioned Yahoo mobile, why the heck do they display that stupid purple screen for so long before displaying a list of my folders from which I need to choose my inbox and then take their sweet time to list my new email messages when 99.9999% of the time I want to go straight to my inbox (which, btw, gmail mobile displays directly and quickly)?

I also use Yahoo only for site registrations and as an address I can give at which I expect spam and which I expect sites will give away to their partners. It's not even very good for thatbecause there are still times when stuff that's meaningful to me gets sent there...

Posted by: -bwg | October 27, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

When Yahoo deleted my backup email archive because I hadn't logged in in what they considered a timely fashion, that was it. I had only been using it for a duplicate place to park messages I wanted to save, and as a spam filter for throwaway registrations. Mostly I had an account so I could use flickr. When everything disappeared, I was really angry, and they were unresponsive, stating that they had warned us of the time frame deep within the "terms of service." I have since heard from several other people that their mail accounts were deleted as well. As for the update, these appear to be cosmetic fixes, for the most part ... "lipstick on a pig." Yahoo is over. It was over a long time ago.

Posted by: wyre1 | October 28, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Where's the calendar in the new interface? I use Yahoo for my personal calendar because I can sync it with my CrackBerry.

Posted by: pirate1 | October 28, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

I stay far far away from anything Yahoo period. From their user groups to their mail, spam is rampant there. Google is the only way to fly IMHO...

Posted by: edeckel | October 28, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I am also one of those who dropped Yahoo for most all of my mail when they dropped POP3 connectivity. Today, Yahoo is strictly a spam-catching address I use and for giving to companies when ordering online, while my real email address remains behind a lock and key.

Now I do use Thunderbird with the WebMail extension along with the Yahoo plug-in that lets me download my email via the web interface. But it's not the same as being able to just go and pull the mail down the same way from other mail services. Why pay $20 a year for something everyone else gives away?

Posted by: TalGreywolf | October 29, 2010 6:16 AM | Report abuse

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