Someone in my family, with good intentions I’m sure, decided to give my dear grandmother a free Yahoo Mail account to replace her digit-ridden CompuServe e-mail address. I felt compelled to write this because as I was over at her house, she informed me that she hadn’t touched the computer in two weeks and for me to “clean out the junk.” I went ahead and logged into her e-mail and was shocked to see that her inbox had well over 2,000 messages! I knew that my grandmother likely didn’t have more than 10 or 20 real messages in there, but thanks to Yahoo’s brilliant SPAM detecting algorithm, I’d never know. I began sifting through the messages, deleting 25 at a time. After the tenth or eleventh page, I grew weary of looking at all of the SPAM that Yahoo failed to capture and decided enough was enough. Grandma was gettin’ Gmail (spam chart).

Below is a screenshot of my Grandmother’s old computer, a Windows98 system running Internet Explorer 5. Click to see the full sized screenshot. Evidently, Yahoo thinks that only 75 out of the 2,000+ messages are SPAM.

(screenshot of Yahoo Mail, left untouched for two weeks, overrun with SPAM)

Back in the 90’s, I avoided Yahoo and used search engines that I felt delivered more relevant results, like MetaCrawler (1998 archive) and WebCrawler (1996 archive) (don’t laugh). It’s been five years now, and I can still remember the oh-so-generous 2MB mailbox limit of Yahoo Mail and Hotmail. It was only until their hands were twisted by the extreme force of Google’s Gmail that they finally stepped up their game.

All throughout the 90’s, I remember avoiding Yahoo Mail because it was clear to me that Yahoo was far too fixated on intrusive advertising than their core search technologies. Moreover, the idea of having my domain be that of the most popular search engine at the time irk’d me. Yahoo was supposed to be a search engine, not an e-mail provider. Either way, their popularity snowballed as they ensnared users over the years. It became the easy choice, evidently.

Every now and again I’d give Yahoo a chance; somebody would invite me to a Yahoo Group or something and I’d register a Yahoo account to see how they’ve kept up with the likes of Google or Microsoft and I’d be disappointed every time. Their site always has something which takes me back in time to the mid 90’s, some archaic, primordial script limiting me to the number of images in a discussion thread (I think that was it, maybe a limit of size) or something else.

Say what you will about Microsoft. Yes, they made IE6 and IE7, destroying web standards and left a security nightmare for an untold number of computers with WindowsXP pre-SP2. However, from time to time, their innovation has held strong, a few things that come to mind are: Microsoft Surface, the XBOX, photosynth,  Live SkyDrive, Seadragon and Office 2007.

Yahoo, on the other hand, seems to have managed to do absolutely squat in the meantime. The fact that Yahoo is still trying to pedal their Yahoo Mail Plus in 2009 is really laughable. They offer $10 per signup if you partner up with them via Commission Junction. Who, exactly, would ever pay for Yahoo Mail Plus in 2009?

Let’s focus on what the free version lacks, since it’s what directly competes with the likes of Gmail now five years after its launch in 2004: (1) no POP3; (2) no IMAP; (3) no email forwarding; (4) no integrated chat; (5) none of the dozens of Gmail Labs features — it should also be noted that even their paid “Plus” version doesn’t include IMAP functionality. What the heck? Couldn’t afford any programmers in five years to get that done? Don’t the three people who do pay for Yahoo Mail Plus complain about that? Moreover, because Yahoo bifurcated their webmail to consist of the “Classic” and their newer version, many of their features fail and require the UI to revert to the “Classic” version in order to function, like the Yahoo calendar — which, by the way, doesn’t support any standards for calendar import/export formats. What year is this again?

Wait! But doesn’t Yahoo own Flickr? Sure, but they sure as heck didn’t invent it — they bought it. Sure, other companies buy one another all the time but it seems that Yahoo is the undisputed king of resting on their laurels and using inertia to propel their success from the 90’s. Yahoo, in many respects, reminds me of Symantec makers of Norton Anti-Virus.

Stop using Yahoo Mail, get Gmail or something, anything other than Yahoo Mail. Questions? I’ll be right here:

Related articles: Fight SPAM;FTC on SPAM

Comments (28)

  1. Chris

    You know, I get few spam messages in my Yahoo box anymore – I think their spam filters have improved quite a bit. Surprised to see this.

  2. Are you surprised to see the article, or the screenshot I provided?

    I’ve found the spam filter to be awful on various yahoo mail accounts, not just my Grandmothers. Of course, it all depends on your personal habits with regards to your e-mail address. Obviously, since Yahoo is the most popular, it clearly is most vulnerable to crawling/spidering. Nevertheless, it is clear that Google is the leader in spam-prevention and Yahoo is lagging miserably and I don’t see any excuse for that, they’ve had plenty of time to figure it out.

  3. Reo

    While I don’t disagree that Yahoo lacks some features that more advanced users may seek, it does a remarkable job for basic mail functions. It allows beginners and intermediate users to weed out most of their spam and integrate many of their daily tasks into one website.

    I switched to Yahoo for all my mail last year and have been 95% pleased with the results. To each their own I suppose, but my e-mail box gets very little spam (I don’t give out my e-mail address to anyone other than who I know).

  4. I’ve been using Yahoo! Small Business Mail for several years and unfortunately I have to agree with you. It surprisingly lacks a number of modern email features. IMAP is the biggest thing that I would like to have. They did post a message some time ago that it was in the works, but I’ve heard nothing since.

    I have been moving many of the sites I manage over to another host that does support the features I need and will get there with my primary site eventually.

    I keep procrastinating the move in the hopes that Yahoo! gets with the times.

  5. […] Symantec products are very much in the same realm as Yahoo. (One could also argue this for older products like AOL, RealNetworks, etc.) They are the default […]

  6. If your grandmother is giving her mail address to every porn site she sees on the internet it’s not Yahoo’s fault I haven’t got a problem with Yahoo’s spam filter, also telling that IE6 and IE7 broke standards shows your limited knowledge on Internet Technology, IE6 and specially IE7 are MORE standards compliant than IE5 and IE4. Give your gmail address all around the internet and lets see how the Spam Filter keeps up… Gmail is great but bashing Yahoo for something that is the user’s fault not the platform fault is not right.

  7. Ryoga, I’ll try to address your issues one at a time: (1) my grandmother used the e-mail address for personal e-mails only and had no idea even how to sign up or navigate any other websites (which is why she was using IE5 and had no interest in upgrading; (2) the fact that the *majority* of SPAM is not going straight into the SPAM folder is very much Yahoo’s fault, and has little to nothing to do with the browser being used; (3) I am aware of Microsoft’s issues with standards compliance, but don’t see how that has any bearing on this particular article other than the screenshot I have provided; and (4) I have given my personal Gmail address all around and receive well over 1,000 SPAM messages per week and can attest to the fact that Google’s proprietary SPAM-catching-algorithm catches well over 99% of them — as such, I continue to place the blame on Yahoo.

  8. Jim

    Yahoo! Classic seems to be doing quite a good job with spam. The only thing that puzzles me is when it marks legit messages from Yahoo! as spam. When I ask Yahoo! staff, they can’t seem to understand the irony.

  9. I Hate Yahoo

    The “new” yahoo mail classic sucks. I can no longer attach a file to an email. Is that supposed to be an improvement? I do NOT want message services in my mail; that’s why I stayed with Classic. I have an old machine which now takes MINUTES to do something as simple as opening a message. In old Classic it took a second (or maybe two).

    Does anyone know another simple email program that acts like old classic? Forget GMAIL, I don’t like conversations and having to use tags instead of folders (yes, I’ve tried it)

  10. Your blog has some great information for small businesses. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge!

  11. This is really an informative post – looking good. Keep at it! I like your graphics on this site.

  12. Greatbutts

    Thats great material, like your stuff, just passing to say hi!

  13. JuanGuapo

    I use both Gmail and Yahoo and I find myself gravitating towards Yahoo more often than not. Gmail is great and all but Yahoo just melds with me better and the way an e-mail website should operate. Plus, I like the unlimited storage and free iPhone push notifications. Yahoo for me maybe 80% of the time.

  14. Sej

    I have a gmail account and get little to no spam. But it is because my gmail address has only been around for a few years, whereas my Yahoo address has been open to spam for more than a decade. Yahoo Mail’s spam filtering has gotten alot better. I’m not sure why you have so many spam messages in your inbox, but it is definitely related to user error, not because of Yahoo’s filters.

  15. duranduranduran

    Are you paid by Google or something?

    ‘Wait! But doesn‚Äôt Yahoo own Flickr? Sure, but they sure as heck didn‚Äôt invent it ‚Äî they bought it. Sure, other companies buy one another all the time but it seems that Yahoo is the undisputed king of resting on their laurels and using inertia to propel their success from the 90‚Äôs. Yahoo, in many respects, reminds me of Symantec makers of Norton Anti-Virus’

    Wait, doesn’t Google own Youtube? Sure, but they as heck didn’t… you get the idea

    ‘All throughout the 90‚Äôs, I remember avoiding Yahoo Mail because it was clear to me that Yahoo was far too fixated on intrusive advertising than their core search technologies.’

    That’s similar to the reason why I’ve spent the last five years avoiding Gmail.

    As a separate point, don’t you think it’s a bit cruel to inflict Windows 98 on your poor old Grandmother?

  16. Mukesh Agarwal

    Yahoooooooooooo is really gr8 their implementation of spam is gr8.

    All mail except spam goes in spam

  17. j baker

    Yahoo’s new e-mail interface included with my Yahoo Small Business account will not reference attachments in e-mails when selecting the print option and printing e-mails. It will only print out the body of the e-mail with no reference to any attachment to the e-mail. This is frustrating for a small business that needs to print out e-mails. I contact Yahoo support who confirmed that the new interface will not print references to attachments but will only print out the body of text of the e-mail. The old yahoo classic interface will print reference to attachments in e-mails but its search function does not work well. Thus, I frustratingly find myself switching between the classic and new interfaces. Is GMail or some other web based e-mail more user friendly or to they too have significant shortcomings?

  18. J. Baker,

    Gmail has no such limitation. I’d suggest you switch immediately and stop paying Yahoo for their substandard service.

  19. j

    Forced “upgrade” to Yahoo mail because of an ISP DSL plan change.
    Never gave my new email address to anyone: only Yahoo has it.
    No IMAP, and I only receive spam: service is totally worthless.

  20. Mortimer Aloofus

    I have a yahoo mailbox that I only use for things like product registrations and whatnot – things that I know for a fact will only SPAM me to death. Although Yahoo has responded to complaints similar to yours and the volume of SPAM I get DAILY (I can watch it come in minute by minute) has decreased from 2-3 THOUSAND (per day..seriously! yowzers, those were bad days) to only a few dozen (still by far the worst amount of all available services, including Excite which is nothing but SPAM central) – yahoo is still the “yucky stain on the blue dress” of email. Never mind their lack of features, never mind wanting people to pay for the privilege of getting spammed to death, it’s just quite simply the worst thing you could do to yourself if you simply wanted a free online mailbox to use while you’re out on the road. Boo YAHOO! So yeah, if I’m just going to get spammed anyway, why not keep my yahoo account and use THAT for all those wonderful product registrations and free offers that come with rebates! LOL

  21. mike biddell

    You are absolutely right. Yahoo’s biggest failing is that they do not listen.

  22. xtachx

    Yahoo does have IMAP. However, their brilliant programmers have made it unusable. This is how you use it:

    You need to append this commnd before the login command for IMAP

    “ID (“GUID” “1”)”

    This is an incredible nonsense. No standard IMAP clients come with this pre-built. You have to “engineer” the source code every f***in time. Brilliant!!

    I have switched to Gmail, but my Yahoo mailbox has been overrun with spam, and I still have old mail / memories in that mailbox. I am trying to find a way to spam clean this shit.

  23. xtachx,

    Incredible nonsense is almost an understatement; nobody is going to do that. What a mess. Yahoo is publicly traded, they have engineers on staff and plenty of money. There must be some really good reason why they can’t tell their engineers to “fix it and make it work like Gmail.” Maybe I’ll get someone from Yahoo to interview with us.


  24. xtachx


    I found a way to spam-clean yahoo mailboxes. It works reasonably well. I wrote you an email. Pls check it out and tell me. If you think its useful pls publish it!

    The article is here:

    Hope it helps someone … even if it helps 1 person I will be satisfied.

  25. leo

    Are you sure the screenshot you posted is of a new Yahoo account and the 2293 inbox messages were from a two weeks’ period of time? First, it has lots of folders — it seems that your grandma is really tech-savy and very well organized to get ready for all kinds of incoming mails within a short period of time after she got the account. Second, if there are 2293 inboxed spam messages from 2 weeks period of time, why there are only 6 from 12/11/08? 2293/14=164, so there should be on average 164 messages per day that get into the inbox, unless you dropped by your grandma’s place and logged into her account at 1am in the morning on that particular day. My suggestion is, do your grandma a favor and get her a fresh, newly registered Yahoo mail account instead of a second-hand, left-over one from your cousin. It is free after all.

  26. Leo,

    My grandmother has since passed away since I wrote this article (on January 3, 2009) so I unfortunately cannot give her a new e-mail address anymore. Here is what I recall: I logged into her e-mail at about 3pm, I’m not sure what day. It wasn’t the date you see in the screenshot because I took that screenshot *after* I gave up deleting SPAM manually. She was very organized with the folders, but certainly not tech-savvy. This e-mail address of hers was about a year old, she hadn’t logged in for two weeks, but the e-mail address was much older than that.

    She told me that she used to just check the boxes and delete the SPAM e-mail one at a time each time she would log in. So, I proceeded to do that — but gave up quickly because it was never ending! That’s when I looked over and noticed that Yahoo somehow thought that only 75 of those e-mails were SPAM.

    What a joke. Sorry, but that didn’t cut it in 2008, 2009, or 2010. I’ll give Yahoo a try again soon and report with a new article to see if they’ve improved their game.

  27. […] Picture by way of Variable GHZ, “Why Yahoo Mail is Still an Epic Catastrophe“ […]

  28. […] Picture by way of Variable GHZ, “Why Yahoo Mail is Still an Epic Catastrophe“ […]

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