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September 14, 2005

Yahoo! launches new Web-based mail, a vast improvement over Gmail

By Charlene Li

New_yahoo_mail_inbox Today, Yahoo! announced a limited beta test of its new Web-based mail product, integrating technology obtained from their acquisition of Oddpost last July. It took a while, but the results are beautiful. (Note: the beta is by invite only -- I've included screenshots for those without access).

The idea is to make Web-based mail resemble more of a client-like experience with the main benefit being to reduce refresh time. I’ve been a long-time user of Yahoo! Mail Plus for my personal email, but have been reading the mail through Outlook because I couldn’t stand the refresh time. The new beta *almost* makes it as seamless as Outlook, and I’m seriously considering giving up using Outlook to be able to always have my personal email accessible to me, wherever I am.

Here are a few of the details, as well as screenshots (provided by Yahoo!). I’ll focus in particular on ways how it differs from the other really cool email program out on the market, namely, Google’s Gmail (note: Earthlink also has a similar client-like approach in beta, but I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet – I’ll update this post once I do).

-          Client-like performance. Glory be, no more waiting for interminable refreshes! Opening emails are almost instantaneous, as are tasks like composing and replying to emails. I especially liked the reply function compared to Gmail, as I didn’t need to scroll down to the bottom of the email message to find the reply button. In terms of overall performance, I did find Gmail’s functionality to be slightly faster than Yahoo!, but only by a split second – there’s always a very slight pause between when I clicked on a Yahoo! button and execution.

-          Drag and drop functionality. I can select multiple messages and drag them all into a folder. Gmail users can “label” multiple messages at a time, but it requires a separate action to then archive them to remove them from the Inbox.

-          Preview pane. Just as in Outlook, there are three windows in the interface, versus the two that exist today in Yahoo! Mail and Gmail. So a user can see the folder, the inbox, and a third preview pane. Gmail does provide a short snippet of text right within the inbox, which is helpful. The benefit with Gmail is that you get that snippet without having to highlight the email. But for traditional email client users, the traditional preview pane offered by Yahoo! in the new Mail beta will be very familiar and useful.

New_yahoo_mail_compose -          Tabbed interface. Power email users typically have multiple emails open at a time, for example, they may be reading an email and composing another one at the same time. Yahoo! users tabs to manage different activities – so when you compose a new email, a new tab opens. And these tabs are smart – they rename themselves based on the subject as you type.

-          Right mouse button and keyboard shortcuts. For me, the mark of an application versus Web-page are these customized shortcuts. For example, a routine activity I do with email is to mark them for follow-up. In the new Yahoo! Mail, I can right click to mark it follow-up. In Gmail, I have to 1) select the message’s check box; 2) move my mouse up to a drop down menu; 3) click on “add a star”

-          Scroll through all mail messages. One nice feature is the ability to see all messages in the inbox or folder – not just the first 50 messages. It wasn’t instantaneous – I had to wait a split second for the messages to load. But then again, I was scrolling through my spam folder, which contained over 600 messages! It was pretty darn impressive. Gmail was also very quick to refresh the pages, but I could only see 50 messages per page at time, versus the continuous scrolling available on the new Yahoo! Mail.

Yahoo_mail_search

-           Email search. Yahoo! has a much improved email search built into the new interface. Like Gmail, the search results in Yahoo! show snippets of the email content. But it also shows small thumbnails of attachments, which is pretty useful.

Overall, I think the Yahoo! Mail experience is excellent and will prove to be popular for people who already use Outlook. But Yahoo!’s strategy isn’t necessarily focused on stealing share from Google or its more formidable email competitor, Hotmail. Rather, I believe it’s to strengthen the loyalty of its existing users, and to encourage them to use Yahoo! Mail on a more regular, consistent basis.

This is because email is one of the three cornerstone entry points to the Yahoo! (the others being the home page and the My Yahoo! page). By improving the email experience, Yahoo! encourage greater usage (including people like me who may have been using the POP service in order to use Outlook). By keeping email users on the Web rather than within a client, Yahoo! can encourage users to try other features like Web search (which it can then monetize).

And Web-based email is becoming more and more important – according to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics research, 31% of North American online households use Web-based email at least once a week, up from 27% a year ago.

Yahoo! Mail competitors have their work cut out for them. Gmail may be the darling of the digerati, but I believe Yahoo! Mail offers a pretty compelling alternative, especially when combined with the ability to host your own personal domain (which is the main reason why I use Yahoo! Mail Plus). Gmail also has a major problem in the way it is constructed, in that it doesn’t use the traditional Outlook-esque interface of three-panes and email controls at the top of the page. And then there’s Hotmail. Given the expertise in-house with Outlook, you can expect that MSN will introduce a Web-based, client-like email experience to the market soon as well.

One problem Yahoo! faces is how quickly it will roll out the new interface and if/when it will switch over to the new platform entirely. For the technologically adept, it will be an easy switch…but for many mainstream consumers, the switch to an entirely new interface could be discombobulating. Yahoo! will have to offer both interfaces for quite a while, and potentially introduce some of the DHTML and AJAX functionality into the mainstream Mail user interface to help ease the transition.

Update: Quick clarification - the new Mail beta is by invite only *from Yahoo!*. They have invited a small group of heavy Yahoo! Mail users as well as everyone who has been a loyal Oddpost user (and a few reporters/analysts). So unfortunately, I don't have any invites to give out. If/when they are available, I'll be sure to let all of you Yahoo! fans out there know!

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Comments

Amy

Hi, Charleneli, could I get a invitation from you? I am really eager to see that. my email: amy.yi.gu at gmail.com

amy

If bloglines could provide some function to search the blog history I viewed before, I would be so happy.

try again

In Gmail, I have to 1) select the message’s check box; 2) move my mouse up to a drop down menu; 3) click on “add a star”

Or just simply click the star beside the message. :))

Jaime

Wow! that looks cool. Incase you want to AJAX the classic Yahoo! Mail :) in firefox try out this extension http://addons.mozilla.org/extensions/moreinfo.php?application=firefox&id=1127 Hopefully it should work till they roll out the new interface for all the users.

Ajay

Hi Charlie,
Do you have an invite for Yahoo Mail Beta?. I am a hardcore Yahoo loyalist and was actually eyeing on GMail for a while. But I knew Yahoo would pull me back.

thanks

Eric

Regarding starring messages: you can turn on keyboard shortcuts in your GMail preferences, and then the 's' key will star a message.

chris

In gmail, the shortcut keys make gmail extremely fast: 'o'.open, 'x':select, 'u':back, 'j':down, 'k':up, 'y':archive. The trick is knowing how to use the program.

paul

The problem with your review is that you are comparing two products, but you only compare Yahoo's best features, without mentioning Gmail's best features.

Your title indicates that you think the new Yahoo interface is better than Gmail, but you don't give Gmail its just desserts by point out areas where it excels over Yahoo (can anybody say message threading?).

djysrv

A divergent voice here . . . Yahoo may have a spiffy new user interface but their customer service for premium Yahoo mail leaves much to be desired. Case in point during August I experience a daunting series of outages for Yahoo premium email which the firm's customer service team never acknowledged or explained. The outages occured at all times of the day and night, with MSIE and Firefox, with the message "Temporarily unable to access your account." As a result of Yahoo's remarkable indifference to customer complaints, I pulled most of my email from the account. A new user interface will not bring me back. I need assurances about reliability and customer service. BTW: The outages stopped as mysteriously about three weeks after they started.

Charlene Li

Paul: You've got a good point -- I don't discuss Gmail's innovative approaches, such as threaded messages and also one of my favorites, archiving instead of deleting messages. But these are fundamentally different approaches to email that I think Yahoo users would find jarringly tough to understand -- as it is, I've heard from several people that they didn't like the messaging threading and couldn't get over the fact that they didn't delete email (I know, hard to phantom!) But to each their own.

Also, after a few more days of testing, I've also found that the initial load of the new Yahoo! Mail (due to the AJAX implementation) is *maddening* slow.

d

Guys,
While everyone is talking about yahoo's new mail offering, how much better it is than its earlier version, is it better than gmail or not... a company called ZIMBRA has released its BETA version of Webemail-collaboration.

Check the flash-demo and hosted-demo(actually try the mail service -no signup or any mess required)... U WILL BE STUNNED TO SEE GMAIL AND THE *NEW*-YAHOOMAIL ARE ALREADY ABSOLETE(technology and feature wise)!!

It is built using the latest and greatest AJAX BASED WEB-CLIENT!!

It has all the features that Gmail offers(conversations, tags, etc)
It has prettymuch everything you would see in outlook(AND IS WEB-BASED)
Lastly its OPEN-SOURCE(which means you can download the sourcecode!!)

Website:
http://www.zimbra.com

Flash demo link:
http://www.zimbra.com/flash_demo/flash_demo.html


Hosted demo link:
http://www.zimbra.com/demo/

Zimbramail Download page:
http://www.zimbra.com/downloads/

Luis

Hi Charlene,

Just in case you've got any invitation to give away, I'd be proud of testing the new Yahoo Mail! Thanks.

Nelson Chen

What gives Yahoo's email the near gmail speed?

Esoos

For those looking for Yahoo invites, you may be able to pick one up at the following URL:

http://surveylink.yahoo.com/wix/p0473306.aspx

karthi3k

Wow, thats cool...
i wanna test its beta version....
Can i hav an invite please ????

karthi3k [at] yahoo [dot] com

Nick

Hi,
Could you please invite me to yahoo mail beta at [email protected] . I have a gmail account, but it sometimes doesn't work so I wish to go back to yahoo.
I would be most appreciative,
Nick

ImRan KhaliD

its good i need it plz send me ...

venkat

how can i download this pls inform me

MrD3SAi

Hey,

Can I please get an invite for the beta testing for yahoo: mrd3sai [at] gmail [dot] com

Thanks in advance,
MrD3SAi

nagaraja

hi,every one.im happy to here this,i wanna test its beta version.
thanx

nagaraja

If bloglines could provide some function to search the blog history I viewed before, I would be so happy.

Jenkins

Hi
Very Nice
It's Based on Microsoft Outlook
The out line is very nice
i am happy with this

Joanna

invite - yahoo?

Andrew

I too would love a yahoo beta invite...

Martín Gerlach

Can i PLEASE get an invitation?
martingerlach at gmail dot com

chris m

an invite would be greatly appreciated

someone

So far it is:

1) slow
2) has a lot of wasted screen space
3) has yahoo's typically bad spam protection
4) mimics outlook, an email program no one should be using
5) has no pop3 access to allow local clients
6) no offline capabilities (see above)

There is no compelling reason to use this email client.

chris m

I've been inticipating such an upgrade to yahoo mail for eaons now. Could someone please send me an invite to see all the hype. I've been using gmail for a while now, which became my current main email provider. but if yahoo does things better i don't mind switching back. The important thing is the service not so much the loyalty.

AN INVITE WOULD BE GREATLY APPRECIATED.
[email protected]

THANKS TO WHOEVER

Hasan Diwan

Charlene,
I was amazed when I read on your blog that POP access is available only with Yahoo! Mail Plus. So I checked my Yahoo account, which I could have sworn had POP access. Lo and behold, it still does! I then had friends of mine on other Yahoo local networks check their accounts and it seems that they allow UK/Ireland holders (my account is on Yahoo! Ireland) POP3 access, whereas Australia and America have you pay extra for it. Perhaps it's an oversight, but until Yahoo! realises this, it is something to keep in mind.

neeraj gupta

can i make a new id for gmail.com

Suresh Kumar

- keyboard shortcuts (vi commands) makes opening/closing/marking/spamming/reply to e-mails very easy. -- none of this mouse click nonsense.

- threaded e-mail discussions are an excellent idea! (newest e-mails still arrive at the top, but are bunched with the complete thread). -- i can't think of one good reason why people would not think its an improvement.

- granted labelling does confuse people, but then it doesn't bother flickr users.. i think they need to do some work on the UI for tagging e-mails..

- typeahead/AJAX/Javascript for Contacts was a brilliant first idea.


In SUMMARY:
Google seem to have lots of good ideas, the competition seem to be able to copy them... Google need to monetize or grow their innovative advantage....

sammy

I would like to get invite to yahoo beta if possible
and I think the competition going on serves the user at the end so it's all good

Thieu Son Truong

Could someone send me an yahoo mail beta invite ?. Thanks so much.

Mansi

Are those who have invites to the beta version and testing it, inviting other people? If yes, could yours truly please be one of these "other people"? :)

chris m

could anyone invite me to try the new yahoo beta.

I'm really excited about it. thanks very much


[email protected]

hemingway

This new yahoomail beta layout seems really cool.

If anyone can could you invite me.

Seems like a good idea much more practical and useful.

thanks

[email protected]

Richard G

I am one user that did the same thing - meaning I bailed on Yahoo OnLine email due to the poor performance and weaker searching. I did like the fact that there were other services like notes/todo's and calendar; however email is clearly the most resent killer application and we are all becoming more addicted to email for communication and documenting our actions. Gmail is fast and efficient but not as user friendly as many client tools. If Yahoo's (Outpost) developments means that its faster and easier to get real work done then it can gain back some "eyeballs" that seem to be moving to other options. There is a major skirmish going on and the battleground is huge. Google's origin is as a search tool that is (trying to) building user stickiness......Yahoo has user stickiness (mature portal and other services like bill pay) but some common user apps like email has wained. Well see who wins in the quest for mind-share and walletshare. Customer volume and interaction frequency dictates how to monetize services that make sense.

Ed McIntosh

would sure like to try the new Yahoo beta

if anyone gets extra invites

Thanks

Ed McIntosh

would greatly appreciate an invitation to yahoo beta mail

Pete

Hey, this new yahoo beta looks pretty tyte. does anyone have an extra invite to hook me up with??? PLEASE!!

ptnnnng at yahoo dot com.

Al in SoCal

I'll be the seventeen ZILLIONTH person to ask for an invite.

It would be EXTREMELY appreciated!!

al91206 AT Yahoo.com

Thanks!

Al in SoCal

aditya

Please can anyone send me an invitation for yahoo Beta mail?

[email protected]

Thnks
aditya

Sooraj

I just can't wait to use this Beta! I desperately hope that Yahoo will release it to others soon.

Just loving Yahoo!

Manoo Shahul Nair

please send me an invite for beta mail.

thanks
manoo

yahoo bata e-mail invitations?

I am also interested in getting an invite for yahoo beta e-mail.

roby

I am also interested in getting an invite for yahoo beta e-mail.

sharhit

I would love yahoo beta invitation
Please send me invitation to [email protected]

vamsi

hi! charlie
heard that the new yahoo!mail beta is great.
will u please let me have my hands on it!
i would be really grateful if u sent me an invitation. thank you

Tanja

Please help! I have been trying to check my Yahoo! account since 8 in the morning but every time I punch in my username and password I get this Yahoo! beta promotional page that cannot even fully open (1 item remaining is what's pops up in the task bar and remains there forever). How do I get rid of this and open my inbox?

Jenny

Could someone please send me a Yahoo Mail Beta invite? Please!!!

Sundaram

i would like to have an invite to see the new yahoo beta

Ann

If Yahoo's (Outpost) developments means that its faster and easier to get real work done then it can gain back some "eyeballs" that seem to be moving to other options. There is a major skirmish going on and the battleground is huge. Google's origin is as a search tool that is (trying to) building user stickiness......

Ed

Could I have ur yahoo beta mail invitation?

Chase

If anyone has an invite, please send me one at [email protected], I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you ~

rostek

Could You pls invite me to Yahoo beta Mail?
Thank You;)

Saira

hi...h r u.
please somebody Invite me for Yahoo Mail Beta.
I'll be very thankful

[email protected]

Manoo Shahul Nair

Please send me the Yahoo Beta Mail Invitation. I am dying to accessit.

Many thanks!
Manoo

Andy Atkinson

I would like to review the new Yahoo! Mail interface for my tech website. If someone moderating these comments has an invite, please contact me through my website linked above. Thanks.

saied

please send me an invitation
thanks

mario

plz my email is not workin and i am not happy about it and if u which to help me u can contact me at [email protected] thanx

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