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September 14, 2006

The New Yahoo Mail, Slowly Released


Yahoo has finally decided to release the new Yahoo Mail Beta to the public in the US and other 18 countries. Although Richard MacManus reports that Yahoo launched the new mail yesterday, there's no official announcement from Yahoo and it's likely that they'll slowly invite people to use the new version.

Since my review from January, there aren't too many changes: Yahoo Mail still has 1GB of space; it loads faster, but it still reacts slowly when using the interface; there are many graphical ads and huge animations that distract you from reading your mail; the spam filter has been improved, but it's still inferior to Gmail's spam protection.

The new Yahoo Mail wants to look like a desktop application, an online version of Outlook. It has tabs, so you can compose mail, search and read mail in the same window. Every view shows the entire list of mail, so you don't have to click "Next" multiple times until you find a message. The window has a preview pane so you don't have to open each mail. The contact list is slick, it has an instant search feature, but you don't have use it when composing messages because Yahoo autocompletes email addresses. The feed reader doesn't have an import option yet, but it looks nice: you can customize the font and text size, forward posts, so reading feeds is more pleasant than reading mail.

Because Yahoo's users are more conservative, the new Yahoo Mail doesn't include mail threading, so you can read conversations in context and it still uses folders instead of labels. Search is almost inexistent: there's no advanced search so you can't search for that important mail sent to you in June, there's no word matching so if you search for "cop" you'll find "copy", "copyright", "Copenhagen". There's no preview for attached documents and the settings section looks the same as last year (ugly and cluttered).

Ethan Diamond, director of product management for Yahoo Mail, talks about the product and he's very excited that Yahoo Mail is the most used webmail service with 255 million users, while Gmail comes in fourth place with only 49 million users. Well, in this case, the most popular service is not the best.

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