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Yahoo Mail is a great example of bad product management

June 5th, 2009 · No Comments

I sincerely hope that someone in Yahoo’s product management organization will see this post. Or, please forward this post to Carol Bartz. 🙂

By the way, I’m not alone on this – Henry Blodget had also written “Deal Carol Bartz: You Need to Fix Yahoo Mail.” I agree with most of Henry’s points. Additionally, I would like to tell you a few of my own pain points of using Yahoo Mail.

I have been using Yahoo Mail since 1995. If I’m not mistaken, I was one of the "early adopter" of Yahoo Mail. I remembered I read an article on the San Francisco Chronicle, talking about two graduate students from Stanford University created an online directory, and had recently got funding. I checked out their site, and immediately became a regular user of the site.

Over the years Yahoo! has a lot of up-and-downs. But, I have remained a loyal user of Yahoo email. Lately, I have to admit that I’m thinking about closing my Yahoo Mail account and moving everything to Gmail.

Let me tell you why.

  1. I have my spam filter turned on, but the amount of spam emails fall into my Inbox has been increasing exponentially. I don’t know what kind of spam detection technology Yahoo uses, but it definitely doesn’t work. 
  2. Sometime I’ll receive 20+ spam emails on my Inbox from the same spammer. I would select these emails and mark them "spam". But, if the same spammer sends me an email in 2 hours, the spam email will still show up in my Inbox. Marking an email address as spam doesn’t prevent email from the same address showing up again in my Inbox.
  3. The ironic thing is that in my "bulk email" folder that stores the spam emails, there are a good number of "false positives". I have to check my bulk email folder every few days to make sure I didn’t miss any valid emails. Furthermore, I cannot bulk-select multiple "false positive" emails and mark them as "no a spam". I have to open each "false positive" email, and then mark it "not a spam" individually. 
  4. When I mark a "false positive" email as "not a spam", the particular email will go to my Inbox. But, if I get another email from the same sender in a few hours, it’s more often than not that the email will end up in my spam folder again although I’ve marked it as "not a spam".
  5. Auto email forwarding and POP email support are pretty standard email features. Yahoo! made both features as "premium features" with a fee around 2002. I could do both on Gmail for free. Making email forwarding and POP Support premium features made it  harder for regular Yahoo! mail users to switch (i.e.  there wasn’t an easy way for you to move all of your emails off Yahoo! without paying a fee).  However, it’s becoming much easier and less risky for me to make a switch now — I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Gmail, IM, etc. It’s virtually impossible for me to lose touch with someone. Even if I miss a few emails, the person could still get hold of me via other social media channels.

So, it was quite annoying when I got messages from Yahoo! asking me to switch from the "classic" Yahoo! mail to their new interface. I tried the new UI once — it had an user interface that is very similar to Microsoft Outlook. But, Outlook is a desktop application while Yahoo! Mail is a web application. Maybe it’s just me, the Outlook-like UI looked really cluttered to me. More importantly, it didn’t address any of my pain points!

Lately Yahoo! has been aggressively promoting the "All New Yahoo! Mail " — these are "nice to have features". Some of them are responses to competitive pressure. But, are these features "pain killer" or "vitamin"?

Spam emails and lack of email forwarding and POP download are causing users like myself a lot of inconveniences and a drop in productivity — a good product manager will focus on solving the real problem and address the pain points now.

Yahoo! Mail Product Management — It’s time for you to wake up, and go to work!

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Tags: Management · Product Management

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