In the beginning, I used usa.net for personal email (I did have a Hotmail account but at least I was smart enough not to use it). From there, I migrated to Oddpost.com (back when it was an independent company) which I liked so much that I paid $25/year for the service. The things I valued the most from Oddpost was the (1) lack of advertising and (2) nifty drag and drop features. But since it was a startup, I was always worried about the company's viability so I was thrilled when Oddpost was purchased by Yahoo! - this meant that the Oddpost email service would live on indefinitely, allowing me to use the service forever and ever without fear of the company going bankrupt. Not only that, Yahoo! would be able to invest the resources required to add sorely needed features like Firefox support (yay!) Sure, I had also opened a Gmail account like everybody else, but there was no way I would ever switch.
Why? My once clean, beautiful and peacefully AD-FREE email environment is now cluttered with ads. Don't get me wrong, Gmail has ads too, but they are far less intrusive and take up less real estate. Here is my current list of Yahoo!Mail gripes which I may add to over time:
- "Home" screen default. When I login to Yahoo!Mail, I'm not presented with my inbox (as I would expect), but a "Home" screen filled with information such as weather and news. I know Yahoo! is trying to be helpful in providing this information, but when I'm going to Yahoo!Mail, I want to check email. I don't want to waste time taking a detour into pseudo-personalized page land, otherwise, I would have gone to my.yahoo.com instead. Actually, even that's not quite true anymore since I have switched from My Yahoo to Netvibes.
- Graphic ads. When viewing the inbox, the rightmost 20% of the screen is taken up by graphic ads. For some reason, graphic ads (especially flash) bother me much more than text ones. Even though I use Adblock so I don't actually see the ad, blank space is used as a placeholder so I still lose 20% of my browser's real estate.
- Ads from Yahoo! email users. When I open up an email sent by somebody who uses Yahoo!Mail, 20% of the rightmost part of their message is taken up by... you guessed it... advertising! From a business perspective, I appreciate the fact that it is quite genius of Yahoo! to make ad viewing unavoidable, but as a user, it annoys the heck out of me.
- Insufficient Blackberry support. I was intrigued by the functionality promised by mobile.yahoo.com (including Yahoo!Messenger) on my Blackberry, but I couldn't get it to work. Now this may not be a fair complaint since I think the problems are due to restrictions placed by my cellphone carrier, AT&T, and not technical issues with Yahoo!, but since mobile.google.com applications work, I still blame Yahoo! for not getting their act together and negotiating an agreement with AT&T to solve this problem.
Having said all this, Gmail's ad targeting is quite creepy, and it may also start to spam me with incrementally more advertising over time, but they at least claim to make user experience a priority so the ad spam will come later rather than sooner.