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Yahoo makes it difficult to leave its service by disabling email forwarding (techcrunch.com)
125 points by italophil on Oct 10, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 76 comments

Just be careful about "deleting" your Yahoo account.

> Register a previously used ID

> A deleted Yahoo account ID may become available for future use, and you’re welcome to try to register it. However, Yahoo can't specify how long until a deleted ID may become available, and we can't guarantee that it will become available.


And make sure it doesn't get removed for inactivity:

> If you rarely use your account, it will go into an inactive state and then be deleted. You can prevent this by signing in to your account using any device at least once every 12 months.

I came here to say this. You probably don't have old, forgotten accounts laying around with your Yahoo email address tied to them, but if you do, Yahoo reserves the right to hand over your password reset abilities to the next person who wants your username.

DON'T DELETE YOUR YAHOO ACCOUNT. Purge it of all content, sure, but flat-out deleting it is very risky.

I guess setting auto-reply with "I don't use this account anymore, please contact me via (either email or a link)." would do the job quite well.

Almost all commercial mails, including newsletters, past orders, discount offers based on purchases, etc., use an "unmonitored mailbox" or an invalid address to send information. Any reply, manual or automatic, will never get seen by anyone on the other side to take any sort of action.

The only way out is to trawl through one's account, hoping that at least one mail from each contact is available, and then changing the email address with each of those. For personal contacts, this would involve emailing them and hoping they see it. For commercial contacts, it would involve going to the respective site and figuring out how to change the address and confirm the new address. Overall, this would be a cumbersome process for many people.

That seems reasonable. I also went through my contacts, calendar, etc. to make sure they were wiped clean.

>Update, 10/10/16, 5:30 PM ET –

Yahoo shared the following statement with TechCrunch:

“We’re working to get auto-forward back up and running as soon as possible because we know how useful it can be to our users. The feature was temporary disabled as part of previously planned maintenance to improve its functionality between a user’s various accounts. Users can expect an update to the auto-forward functionality soon. In the meantime, we continue to support multiple account management. ”

The headline heavily implies it's permanent and intentional as an obstacle, which are not supported by available evidence.

But Yahoo only needs to stop people from moving away as long as they remember what Yahoo did, that memory is measured in days? weeks?

Since this is related to moving out of Yahoo, in a previous thread about the security breach at Yahoo, I had asked for suggestions on other email providers who're better focused on privacy, security (and related to that, freedom). I came across a few suggestions that support custom domains, but found all of them wanting in some ways:

1. Fastmail - becomes very expensive if multiple people (say, in a team or family) want individual accounts even if their actual usage volumes are less. Pricing by user account is the barrier here, instead of pricing by usage (consider that it provides 600 aliases per user, which 99% of users wouldn't use to the full extent, but charges based on user accounts). Provides support for IMAP/POP, importing existing mails from other accounts and exporting mails out. A few hundred dollars a year for email is quite expensive for me.

2. Protonmail - no way to import mails from existing mail accounts or to export mails from the system. The lack of support for IMAP/POP means one does not have the freedom to move out. Suggestions on these have been waiting for two years with nothing to show for. Pricing is somewhat similar to Fastmail, but offers more flexibility. This too could get very expensive even with lower actual usage per user.

3. Tutanota - much better on flexible pricing based on different parameters, but it's similar to Protonmail in that it does not support importing existing mail or exporting mails out. It too lacks support for IMAP/POP and states that it's never going to support them for privacy reasons.

4. Startmail - quite similar to Fastmail on the pricing issue, but has IMAP support.

Are there any other providers who do better on all these fronts? I'd like to use custom domains, have multiple user accounts (with separate credentials), preferably manage storage across users, be able to import and export mails, and have IMAP/POP support in order to use different systems (phones, tablets, computers with different operating systems). I don't believe that web mail and custom apps ought to be the only way to use email.

I'm pretty happy with Servermx [1].

It's hosted in EU, has IMAP/POP/ActiveSync (AS is not mentioned on website since it's still in beta, but has worked since last year reliably), Cal&CardDAV (CardDAV offers full HQ contact photos).

The prices are quite reasonable (1.8€ monthly for 10GB mailbox). Webmail interfaces are SOGo, Squirrelmail, Roundcube. Support tickets are answered instantly (couple hours).

You can migrate existing mail via an IMAP importer (logs into target IMAP server with your credentials and pulls email to servermx).

They offer a 30 day trial to check it out (without custom domain part for the trial), after that you can upgrade it to a full paid account, which supports custom domains.

[1] http://servermx.com/

> They offer a 30 day trial to check it out (without custom domain part for the trial), after that you can upgrade it to a full paid account, which supports custom domains.

From their features page.

> With the trial product You can use your own domain name or use a free sub-domain of servermx.com which will be assigned to you at subscription time.

Or did you mean they don't offer "Custom Web mail URL - Your domain name can be used for your web email client (example http://webmail.yourdomainname.tld)" during the trial?

Thanks for the heads up, I'll have to look into them as I'm getting bored of maintaining my own mail server and €24 isn't bad for a year. I'll have to look into them a bit more before taking the plunge though.

Oh, my mistake then, I thought the trial was only possible with their email address. Even better :)

LuxSci is top notch. It's expensive if you only use it for one or two accounts, but can be cheaper than FastMail if you have several accounts sharing your disk quota.

Runbox is probably as privacy-respecting as you can get without delving into the kind of zero-knowledge encryption schemes that make Protonmail and similar services incompatible with IMAP/POP. Their webmail is meh, but that won't matter if you usually access your mail via IMAP/POP.

I found isync/mbsync to be a reliable tool to migrate my mail from one email provider to another.[1] You have to be into unix-y command line, though.

[1] See e.g. https://psyq123.wordpress.com/2015/09/22/backing-up-email-fr...

That's useful only if the provider you're moving to supports importing mail. As mentioned in my comment, some of the privacy focused ones do not (or are yet to) support importing existing mails.

Ok, I misread your comment then. I thought you meant some sort of a tool/web gui which fastmail provides but others don't.

Do those privacy focused providers even prohibit the import of mails via IMAP from your local computer? At least for isync/mbsync this not relevant and it seems to me that this a very basic operation of the IMAP protocol... (I'm not a CS person, don't weigh my words.)

Yes, the ones I mentioned as not supporting mail import do not provide any method to import and don't support IMAP either.

I am using mailbox.org

It's quite cheap and supports using your own domain.

It's German based but I have had no issues communicating with the support in English.

Thanks. The pricing and features look nice. But it does not allow importing existing emails into the mailbox account (and thus provide a way to permanently get rid of the older account while having a way to access older mails across multiple devices).

Yes they actually do.

The manual way is just to use a desktop email app like mail.app, outlook or Thunderbird to move the emails. That's what I did to migrate from Google apps, worked surprisingly well for even my very large amount of email.

You can also use this way: https://support-en.mailbox.org/knowledge-base/article/audrig...

Thanks a lot for pointing to this. I had searched their knowledge base for "import", didn't find anything, and assumed this wasn't there. Both the paid option and the (free) manual option are straightforward.

Posteo.de is also German based, but seems cheap and reliable.

It might be a bit too simple for your needs though.

Thanks. This seems to provide everything except using a custom domain. The site says it doesn't allow custom domains for privacy reasons to avoid storing any information about the customer. Moving out of it may be painful because of this limitation (having to inform or update all contacts of a change in email address).

If you already have your own domain, why not just get a cheap shared hosting account, and use the mailboxes that come with it for free? They generally come with unlimited mailboxes with IMAP/POP3 support, and cost < USD$4/month.

This is why you should use your own email domain so you can just shuffle it around providers as needed.

For most providers, using your own domain is a paid feature.

Amazing. To get what you want you have to spend money!

I pay $5 a month for Google Apps, which is completely worth it for me since finding good, unclaimed short email addresses on Gmail is not possible.

If all you want is the email address, you can simply transfer your domain to Google Domains and use their free GMail integration. That'll save you $48/year assuming you don't value any of the other paid features in Google Apps.

I'd be afraid of Google's control over my domain name registration. Even if they don't do anything malicious, their "wall of silence" with respect to support leaves me very apprehensive. (Some people say it's different for paid-product support, but I don't know whether this includes $12/year domain name registration -- or will so in future.)

You can keep registration at your preferred provider, and set DNS for MX to Google, and there you go.

Exactly. I believe the/an ancestor was referring to getting registration through Google and taking advantage of a "free" Gmail account against that custom domain.

As far as I know, if you register elsewhere and set up DNS so, you can still get one Gmail account against the domain name for "free" -- in contrast to when Google was rolling out Google Apps to the public and offered first 50, then 25, then 10 "free" Gmail accounts to a unpaid Google Apps account so configured.

Can you please explain how exactly this going to work without Google Apps? Am I missing something?

Yeah, you're missing the bit where you use a 3rd party to send/receive the email as a proxy for your personal gmail account, i.e. using Zoho.

(1) Point your MX records at your Zoho mail

(2) Forward all mail from Zoho to your personal gmail account

(3) Setup a sender alias in your gmail account for your domain

This is way I using gmail now, but that is kind a opposite to statement in message I replied to: "set DNS for MX to Google".

Currently I have to redirect to Google and Google only send from those boxes using 3rd party SMTP server. So main advantage of having trusted sender is not there.

There's also the fact that Google loves to abruptly drop support for various services on a seeming whim.

Granted they always leave a transition period, but doing anything involving domains is a pain I'd rather not touch until I have to.

Where does it say that Google Domains has free GMail integration? All I'm seeing is G Suite integration for $5/month extra.

They call the feature 'email forwarding': https://support.google.com/domains/answer/3251241?hl=en

You have to use the Email Forwarding section in Google Domains, then set it up from within GMail.

GMail Settings > Accounts and Import > Send Mail As > Add another email address you own.

I remember it taking a few tries to get all the Domains info right, but I can send and receive email from any of my Google-managed domains from within GMail. You can try Googling for updated instructions if these don't still work:


Does it still include your real email address in the headers?

Yes it does.

I'm using an obscure country TLD, there's only one provider for the TLD.

If you can manage DNS yourself, you can set MX to Google or another provider.

Well yes, but you can't just expect Google to accept mail for any old domain. You have to be a Google customer first.

Its very popular to use Zoho as a workaround for this.

(1) Point your MX records at your Zoho mail

(2) Forward all mail from Zoho to your personal gmail account

(3) Setup a sender alias in your gmail account for your domain

Can you still do SPF and DKIM?

No and that's the problem. Gmail sees your IPs instead of the originating IPs, with a negative impact on spam classification quality, and in all likelihood a negative impact on your IP reputation due to the appearance of relaying spam.

Curious if you've encountered this problem or if its hypothetical (not to take away from your comment, it makes sense). I've had Zoho->Gmail setup for a while and I've had no issues with false positives/negatives.

I guess I've never personally tried it, but I've had to field customer problems for people who did this and who had real problems (mostly spam false positives).

If your domain provider provides forwarding email service, then with Google you can set it up as a relatively invisible alias to a regular GMail account at no charge.

I have used Zoho for a while now without spending a cent.

Would not mind paying a few bucks for the service though, email is a such essential tool for everyone these days anyways.

Mail forwarding is also a paid feature on Yahoo. Those on the free tier cannot do it.

P.S.: On the other hand, Gmail allows free IMAP/POP and free email forwarding.


I worked at a school helpdesk for a while, and I saw that whenever school email accounts were hacked, the attackers would set up forwarding to some other account. People wouldn't notice the forwarding for weeks or longer, and would only come in to us by chance. In the meantime, a lot of information could be siphoned off.

There could be some legitimate security concerns there, especially since most yahoo accounts don't have a convenient and free help desk to stop by, right?

(Disclaimer: I am only a novice when it comes to security, I could be totally off base)

There is a very easy solution to this, which I believe Gmail employs: Place a very noticeable banner on the inbox when all your email is being forwarded to another address.

I forward everything that _does not_ match a specific string using the filter feature in Gmail, and I get no such banner. It is a company owned email, with a custom domain and such, but should not differ in this case.

The banner only shows for a week after you set it up.

That's assuming everyone composes e-mails through the web UI. Maybe they don't want to make that assumption.

Should just auto reset forwarding when a password reset is done.

We had such an attack recently; the banner disappears after a time (also, users don't read banners)

Gmail, on the other hand, has takeout which allows you to export all your mail in bulk if you want to leave and take it with you: https://takeout.google.com/settings/takeout

> (Disclosure: TechCrunch parent company Verizon is acquiring Yahoo.)

On the side:

> Verizon wants $1 billion discount on Yahoo deal | Crunch Report


Almost all mail providers offer some sort of mail collection feature via POP3 which can be used as an alternative to mail forwarding. The disadvantage is that you'll have some time delay (depending on how often your provider allows you to fetch mail). The advantage is that you aren't relying on any feature of the old mail provider. As long as it still provides POP3 you're all good - and I find it unlikely that yahoo will disable POP3.

(not saying this to justify Yahoo's rogue move here, but to give advice to people who have this problem)

Just last week I noticed a charge on my credit cars from Yahoo Ad Free mail. There was an online link to cancel but no apparent way to request a refund.

I have no idea how I ended up getting signed up for this. I've long used Yahoo as pretty much a spam bucket when I have to give out an address to someone I don't care to get emails from. (For all I know, I somehow got signed up a while back but I certainly am not aware of doing it and it's not something I would normally have any reason to do.)

it is a scam not associated with yahoo in any way, i heard.

the credit card scammers just use the fact that almost everyone in the US has a yahoo email.

I was apparently signed up on Yahoo though as in I was able to log in to Yahoo and cancel the service. Which I assumed made the charge "legitimate" whether or not a refund was offered. I was thinking of disputing it but was inclined not to bother. Maybe I'll take a further look.

We had a few customers complain to us that they couldn't forward customer support messages from Yahoo to Reamaze. Now we know why. Frankly, a very un-customer move by Yahoo.

Yeah I cant believe Yahoo would disable forwarding. People use it for other stuff, not because they want to move to another service.

This is going to make people want to move off Yahoo even more

Which customers are you talking about? Users? Yahoo is selling users to Verizon.

If you were selling a herd of cattle, you wouldn't just leave the gate open and let them leave, would you?

I remember moving away from Yahoo! in 2008. It was like ripping off a bandaid, but after 3 months, I was able to stop checking it.

I replaced it with a personal domain with email hosting through gmail. Today, protonmail looks like an interesting alternative, and thanks to this setup, would be a painless transition.

I'd recommend FastMail. I've been using them for a while and I'm very happy with their service.

I moved to ProtonMail (from Gmail) at the beginning of this year and haven't looked back. They also now let you bring your own domain name, which they didn't back then.

Gmail lets you export your Yahoo emails to itself. I did that once a long time ago and abandoned Yahoo altogether. You then just enable permanent vacation responder and be done with it.

What a scummy move.

No doubt they will try to find some way to further lock in Flickr users as well.

Just another reason to never associate your real information with something like a Yahoo account, and always use different passwords for different sites.


Not here, please.

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