At 16, Yahoo! has come out with a significant upgrade. Geeta Padmanabhan updates us on the changes
Like a lot of you, I maintain my Yahoo! Mail because that was my first virtual post box, my first Internet crush. It wasn't a smooth relationship. When rumour surfaced that Yahoo! might charge users for mail beyond a limit, I protested. When it limited storage on free accounts to 25 megabytes or less, I yelled in frustration. Moving to G-mail was inevitable; it was so much more intuitive! But I persisted with Yahoo! Mail — it had too much information, scattered though it was, and many sweet memories stored in the boxes.
Now, at sixteen, Yahoo! Mail has stepped out with a significant upgrade. For the second time in a year, it wears a new look. Last week, the Yahoo! logo on the main page jumped with tiny postal letters, not a serious clue! I opened my mail page and up popped a collage of coloured pictures to personalise my inbox with a theme. Below were lines to what I could expect: view messages with the same subject grouped together as conversations (relief!), preview documents before downloading and opening a file, and get premium features such as disposable addresses and mail-forwarding for free.
The mail-page looked neat with an elegant font. The unopened mails number, missing for a while, showed up, and the clubbed mail history quoted numbers.
I mailed David McDowell, senior director, Yahoo! Mail for more on the redesign. “The new Yahoo! Mail design is for desktop, iOS, Android and Windows 8,” he wrote back, listing the new features. The look of the inbox/contacts/calendar has been personalised with visually-rich “Postcard” photo themes from Flickr, he said. Select your photo theme from any device, and Yahoo! Mail will seamlessly carry it to your other devices. (When Yahoo's email users choose a picture as their backdrop, the same look will automatically appear on the mobile email applications.) The theme is carried throughout the mail experience – features within Mail (buttons, text labels) are depicted in a complementary colour.
The new “Conversations” feature threads messages, so you can read and respond to emails quickly, he said. Redesigned navigation icons expand and collapse to create more room for your content. Users can hover over a message to quickly star, delete, move or mark a message as read (full marks for this!). Clicking a magnifying glass next to a sender’s name will take you to every message you have received from that person. And a new compose screen on the web brings up a rectangular white card that stands over the inbox, similar to what's on Tumblr. Way better than the Gmail compose screen!
“Disposable email addresses, enhanced filters and forwarding services are now offered for free to all users,” said McDowell. Free users can now create disposable addresses to hand out to marketers, automatically forward Yahoo! Mail to another account, and have offline access to their messages with POP. To be ad-free, however, you need to pay $50 a year. Mail Plus users can keep their current plans, but would you want to? The 1TB (it's a cap on what was earlier unlimited storage) should be enough to cover the storage needs of the average email user, for about 10 years?
Yes, I can hear you: Yahoo! Mail is getting to look like Gmail's identical twin. That may be because Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer helped design some of Gmail's features during her Google days. At Yahoo!, users can turn off the “conversation view” tool — go to Settings (right corner), click on “Viewing Emails” and UNcheck the conversations box. Yahoo's terabyte limit now dwarfs Gmail's, its per-account limit is 30 GB of free content, 15 GB with Google Apps free edition, shared between Gmail, Google Drive, and Picasa Web Albums. Question is: Will Yahoo!'s march to modernise services attract more web surfers, bring in more ad revenue? Yahoo! says the number of monthly visitors has increased by 20 per cent.
McDowell believes the redesign will add delight to an everyday habit — email. “The average email on Yahoo! Mail is 20 kilobytes — you could store 50 million average-sized emails in 1TB, which is far bigger than our average mailbox. We’re shifting our offering to 1TB because we want to empower our users to know how much space they have.”
One problem, Yahoo! If you open a mail and get back to the mail page, you can't click to delete that mail (in a coloured band). Will you look into it? Yahoo! Mail or Gmail? Depends on which one can tame our inboxes better.