1. Previewing a next generation beta mail interface that looks and moves like 300 lb. ass. Google walked an artful line with its first iteration of Gmail, introducing responsive AJAX code without sacrificing too much time in preload. It’s a line that Yahoo! blundered right over as if it were never even there. Google saw what Yahoo! didn’t — just because new tools give us the ability to recreate a desktop application within a browser, doesn’t necessarily mean we should. There is a way to make smart choices about how much widgetry the web page loading experience can withstand. And then there’s the Yahoo! way, which is more like backing up a dump truck to Outlook’s output tray.
2. Allowing persistent lapses of server performance in a time of unprecedented competition. For the final couple of years I was a regular Yahoo! webmail user, successfully viewing my inbox was always a gamble, with failure annoyingly resistant to the repeated refresh. I have had other Yahoo! users complain to me about the same thing on different operating systems and ISPs, often when everything else on the web was working fine for them. Yahoo!’s one advantage over Gmail, at least in pre-beta form, was that it used to load more quickly and more reliably than Gmail — an efficiency gap that has since been thoughtlessly squandered … in pursuit of what?
3. Sticking to the bloated old-school landing page. And not just sticking to it, but pushing it to improbable new weights, despite the obvious success of contrary trends…
4. Punting ad quality control. First, there was a flirtation with spyware pop-ups, which one could argue might be overlooked at any large advertiser, were it not for the inconvenient example of Google, where such things don’t seem to happen. Then I hear from a client that he can’t click new messages anymore in his Yahoo! mail. I tell him to try a different browser, to no avail. I have to turn off my ad-blocker to discover the annoying Rogers ad that drop-animates a mobile phone down over your browser window, and then disappears, leaving a large unclickable slab right over the top half of your incoming mail. Yahoo’s advertising had rendered its own service inaccessible. Cue comical sound effect.
5. Hiding key features behind a subscription wall. Especially when the competition offers those same features for free. Gmail For Your Domain gives away what you as a small business need to set up a complete personalised email address and contact-sharing environment, something you’ll pay a minimum of $35 a year to achieve with Yahoo. And then there are all the Google Apps to play with that come along for the ride — also free. Instead of taking these market-shifting challenges seriously, Yahoo! just attempted to worry more meat from its pre-existing userbase.
6. Retracting previously free features. Since the days of its very first ‘look’ (the look before the look that Yahoo! is now calling ‘Classic’), Yahoo! Mail has offered free POP3 access (so that you can download your email with Outlook or Apple Mail, for example). That is, it has until the last few years, when they’ve been phasing it out behind the paywall. But only in some countries. Not in others. At best, it’s confusing, and the marketplace routes around confusion. At worst, it’s just insulting and unfair.
7. Ratting out Chinese dissidents. Twice.
8. Breaking Jumpcut. Jumpcut was a great video sharing site. It still looks great. The design is very clean and tasteful, in contrast to the standard YouTube-inspired ‘Computer Shopper’ vibe. It has interesting remix features implemented in surprisingly snappy Flash. It also has a good creative community, and at the time I chose my video host (things appear to have changed since), it allowed more reposting freedom (such as on a blog) than YouTube. Then Yahoo! came along and bigfished Jumpcut. Their first executive decision was to immediately force my Yahoo! and Jumpcut IDs into a shotgun marriage. And now some of my movies that previously played, don’t anymore — on any browser, Mac or PC, and I find myself contemplating the even-biggerfishing that may be to come, and mentally adding up the time it will take me to move my whole library of videos to another service.
9. Exhibiting general cluelessness. It’s not just that Yahoo! stumbles, it’s the way they stumble. Except for their early fortuitous (but as it turned out, not sufficiently deep) concentration on search, they have consistently played follow-up and missed the point of new trends in such a way that they often bob left when they should be weaving right. It’s an excruciating thought-process to watch: They want Web 2.0, do they? We’ll give ’em Web 2.0! We’ll give ’em whatever they want! I don’t wanna hear about throwing more resources after speed and efficiency on the old system, cuz 2.0’s where it’s at! Okay wait, revenue’s down? Just add more link spam to the home page. We need to be cross-promoting these assholes up the yin-yang. And if they want the good shit, let ’em pay. And get more ad revenue, too, I don’t care what you have to do. We got a hole in the budget a mile wide from all the AJAX programmers we’re burning through. What do you mean China’s on the phone? We’re running a business here! Just give ’em whatever they want!
ED NOTE: This article originally appeared on the Man Knows Mac site, and is reprinted with his permission.