Yahoo Mail – that’s why they call it a beta

A couple of weeks ago I posted a trick that enabled you to get in on the yahoo email beta. A little history is on order here. Several years ago a company called Oddpost began offering webmail accounts with a really slick interface. It was IE only though, and after a bit Yahoo snapped them up and indicated they would enhance the client and make it cross browser compatible. At least two years have passed since then. For whatever reason Yahoo seems to be struggling with this, and in the interim gmail came out and pretty much defined what a web 2.0 mail interface ought to look like. This is the core of Yahoo’s problem now, because their new interface suffers in comparion. Much like Yahoo’s homepage, the webmail client is too cluttered with crap, and what’s worse is that it’s an ajax app so it streams this crap in piecemeal and this can literally freeze the browser or make it very unresponsive while it pulls the elements that make up the interface down.

Long story short, after about a month and a half with the beta I’ve switched back. It’s possible that Yahoo can address some of these problems – for example, they might not have enough bandwith/servers allocated to the beta which could be causing the slow streaming in of the data and the browser sluggishness – but even if they address that, it doesn’t address their clumsy and cluttered user interface. Given the evolution of their homepage it seems less likely they’ll effectively address this (they seem to subscribe to the ‘more is better’ school of design at a time when google and many web 2.0 companies (37 signals, del.icio.us, digg, to name just a few examples) are demonstrating that the opposite is true.

Still, I’ll keep an open mind and try it again when they go live with it for all customers, or announce another round of beta testing, to see if it’s improved to the point of actually being usable.

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