Oct 18, 2013

    Online riot over Yahoo Mail changes

    IT HAS become the online equivalent of a riot.

    Tens of thousands of Yahoo users have taken to Web forums to complain about the look and functionality of the new Yahoo Mail, one of several Yahoo product updates introduced over the last 15 months at the behest of Yahoo's chief executive and former Googler, Ms Marissa Mayer.

    By Wednesday, more than 3,000 people had signed a petition on to bring back the old Yahoo Mail. A Facebook group called "Yahoo's New Mail Fail" had nearly 500 members.

    And tens of thousands of users had posted on a Yahoo Mail forum to complain about the second update to the e-mail service in less than a year. Its first update was in December last year.

    "The new Yahoo is so bad, it's tragic," wrote one frustrated user. Another wrote: "If it ain't broken, don't fix it."

    With an estimated 275 million users, Yahoo Mail used to be the most popular e-mail service in the United States. But it has been surpassed in recent years by Google's Gmail service and Microsoft's Hotmail.

    Users suspect the new Yahoo Mail is an unsuccessful attempt to mimic Gmail. One user tweeted: "So Yahoo Mail just redesigned to look like Gmail, except with a towering ad on the right?"

    Like Gmail, Yahoo's updated e-mail service now organises e-mail threads by conversation, rather than sorting them through integrated tabs. It also offers users the option to include a background image.

    As in Gmail, users can search for e-mail messages by sender, but they can no longer sort their messages alphabetically by sender.

    One user posted on a Yahoo Mail forum: "Currently, the product feels like an alpha version of Gmail."

    Users were also angered by the removal of a number of features in the update. There is no longer an option to print e-mail messages, for instance, and a "Save Draft" button was swopped for a less intuitive "X" button.

    Users said the revamp left them guessing which feature did what. Common e-mail functions like forward, reply, close and attach documents are no longer labelled clearly, users say, and they are left to guess what the options are by hovering their cursor over each button.

    But special ire has been reserved for the fact that the upgrade contains a number of bugs. A forum for bug reports now includes nearly 9,000 complaints.

    Yahoo's senior director of products for Yahoo Mail, Mr Dave McDowell, said in a statement on Wednesday: "As with any significant product change, it is typical to see varied reaction, particularly in the beginning, and with products that have a large user base. The level of response we are seeing is in line with previous releases and we've heard from many users that they are enjoying the new experience."

    Elsewhere on the Web, the Yahoo Mail upgrade has already become something of an Internet meme. Comedian Ike Barinholtz posted on Twitter: "Yes, the approval ratings for Republicans are historically bad, but they still aren't 'new Yahoo! Mail' bad."