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Yahoo Mail’s Plan to Fix Email: Make Computers Read It (theatlantic.com)
61 points by cpeterso 75 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 40 comments

Yahoo should probably focus on getting the basics of email deliverability right first. They could have the best client side features by a distance, and I wouldn't go near them and would continue to tell others to avoid using them.

The number of times their servers reject emails at random, causing yahoo email users frustration, is astonishing for an email service provider. Contacting their postmaster to spell out the issue results in a dispute over email headers (which they insist can be obtained from their email client even though the emails are being rejected server side) - and their numerous problems go unsolved. We tell users to switch away from yahoo if they want to receive emails with a reasonable probability.

We've never had issues sending millions of emails to Gmail, outlook, or pretty much any large ESP other than yahoo.

Worse than rejecting emails, Yahoo silently rejects emails. No error on SMTP delivery, no DSN sent back, sometimes it just drops the email into /dev/null.

Never use Yahoo mail. There are much better alternatives out there, even if you want a free service.

> Yahoo Mail is an underdog too: It represents 6.3 percent of email clients, versus Apple’s 43.6 percent, Google’s 30.3 percent, and Microsoft’s 11.4 percent

When I read this I thought this Apple's 40%+ email share can't possibly be true and I read the linked article and realized if an iPhone user is reading their yahoo.com or hotmail.com email on the Mail app on their phone, it counts as an "iPhone email", so this number is meaningless, although it's probably true that Yahoo email has a smaller share than Hotmail or Gmail.

It’s referring to email clients.

I wasn't even aware they have a client, I thought it's just the web view.

The web view is the email client they provide. The statistic shows how people access their email account, not where it's hosted.

Android client it's quite good.

A web view is a client.

The key word in that sentence is "client," as in "program." You're thinking "provider" or "user."

Yeh it seems weird to mix clients and services together. Apple’s numbers are almost entirely for a mail client, while google and yahoo are all a service. Who knows what they mean by Microsoft but it seems like their are counting outlook.com service numbers but not Outlook client numbers.

yahoo mail really hurt me when they threw all my childhood correspondence away without warning. it would probably fit in 600 KB.

like this:


or maybe a different issue where they deleted mails older than 1 year or older than 10 years or something, I forget. (you can google it. people were comparing it to going into your attic or back of your closet and throwing away old letters you'd saved.) anyway it really made me very sad. I don't use them and am unlikely to ever trust them. they really let me down.

Even being 100% sure Google won't lose my email in an accident and 99% sure they'll never duck my account, I still IMAP all my messages out of it. For that 1%, no less.

I have created a to-do list for the start of each calendar quarter. It includes things like:

* Replace toothbrush heads (electric)

* Spring clean two rooms in the house

* Download backups of all email accounts

* Download backups of all cloud web sites

* Sync external hard drives to cloud archival storage

* Download QIF and QBO of all bank accounts

It's quarterly. Worst case scenario, I lose last three months. And by doing it quarterly, I usually add to the to do list, and it's a catch-up.

Cleaning two rooms of my house take the longest time. Everything else can be done in about 1-2 hours.

i just found this out... wtf... how much space could it all have possibly taken up. why would anyone trust them after this to use their email. didn't even know this was happening.

> They started taking screenshots of boarding passes or coupons so they could find them more easily. This is a dumb way to use computers,

What? This is a wonderful way to use computers. Screenshots are offline storage of specific, useful information in a universal format whose content can be browsed and recognized at a glance.

People don't want better organization, they want to get their boarding pass out easily. You can do that a million ways, but the one way that makes no sense is "pull up the virtual letter I received at time of purchase and see if it contains an embedded image or an attachment I forgot to download". What would make more sense is to have an extension to something like vCard called "tickets" and allow special ticket-holding apps to keep them. Your email client could download them and pass them to the app automatically, ensuring you always have your tickets offline and organized in a dedicated ticket program.

We don't have to live in a world where one application tries to do everything, and we can use standards to make universal things (like tickets) actually universal.

With Apple Wallet and Google Pay apps it's easy to add tickets/boarding passes/cards etc

Companies should make it easy to add it to those apps. For me boarding passes are really easy to add to Apple Wallet for example.

Where I live (Scandinavia) most boarding passes are just QR codes and a screenshot of that does just fine for the few cases where the app used to book the ticket doesn't handle it for you.

Second this. As an Aussie, we have contactless everywhere here so Apple Wallet has been awesome for me so far. I just wish more brands, products and companies supported it.

Am I crazy for kind of hating this. Half of the article feels like a PR piece for functionality that gmail already has, and the prospect of emails changing after theyve been sent is kind of unsettling.

Probably worth noting that aol and yahoo don’t even use their own mail internally, they use gmail. Or at least did as of a couple of years ago.

Really? I hadn't ever known this. If true, this saddens me greatly...This means that even more of the global email traffic than previously thought is under/traverses google's infrastructure umbrella. </sigh>

Not really. The communications team (about 400-500 people) who develop email product do use it. Unfortunately, for larger Verizon media, verizon has dictated that they use gmail. Explanation is that "Yahoo Mail" is consumer focused not enterprise focused which requires calendar support, conferencing etc.

Why doesn't corporate get them to make those feature then? Complete joke that we don't even use our own stuff in house.

Not that I want to use Y! Mail but it's the principle of the thing.

I do think dogfooding in general is a good thing but I feel like it can hold you back if you're dogmatic--especially with a large company. Sure, people snicker when people found out MS uses Linux for some services. Same with Apple using Linux for their services when they still had xserve and osx server. I think both companies were better served by not being forced to use their own products.

I know someone who works at a Microsoft subsidiary. She'll bring up using MS Lync, Teams, Skype, Excel or something and I'll be thinking "oh, most companies just use X." The few times I've used those Microsoft products I found them confusing and error prone...this also means I should spend more resources learning this. All of that would take away from my day job.

I can easily see not wanting to spend time investing in half baked calendars and conferencing taking resources away from consumer focused features.

I didn't want to use AIM, either but when they switched from using AIM to slack internally that was surely a death sentence for aim.

This is still the case.

In the early 90's I used something called QuickMail [1]. It was pretty awesome, especially for its time. You had the ability to do things that SMTP couldn't do, like unsend, see if message was viewed, send 'smart emails' etc. The issue was that it only worked well if other users were on QuickMail. Beyond the other dramas of acquisitions [2], it never really caught on to replace plain old SMTP.

It seems the tides have turned a bit. Now that SMTP email is everywhere, users could reverse the situation. I could say that I will only accept emails which can be parsed by a computer. I (or my provider) could then publish a schema for the types of emails that I'm willing to receive (and how they should be formatted for me). The rest would go into some other folder (ie: spam), that I could look through if I cared enough.

[1] https://tidbits.com/1991/09/16/ce-ships-quickmail/

[2] https://www.engadget.com/2008/07/28/outspring-puts-the-final...

Email overload already has a fix - filtering rules and email folders have been a thing for decades, and most popular email clients have offered convenient ways to quickly create the rules for nearly as long.

The problem is people not learning to properly use a tool that they spend a big part of their time with, and instead fearing that if they touch one wrong thing, one wrong button, their computer or smartphone will explode.

Last fall I spent 4 months on a co-op term in the IT department of a reasonably large (~2000 employees, not huge) investment company. Before I started, my boss-to-be repeatedly warned me about the hundreds of emails I would have to read every day.

It was rough going for the first week or so but by the second week I had a large number of folders and filtering rules set up. I had at least 80% of the emails being marked as read and tucked away as soon as they were received, since they were mostly log files I only needed to look at if something went wrong.

The problem is people not learning to properly use a tool that they spend a big part of their time with, and instead fearing that if they touch one wrong thing, one wrong button, their computer or smartphone will explode.

I have no idea how to cure people of this problem. I have been trying to teach my dad how to use his computer and phone nearly all my life. He's learning things, sure, but there's never any moment where I feel like I've handed him the keys to the Corvette, so to speak. Each time I show him how to do something, it's like I'm driving him to a different appointment.

For some reason email is singled out as a problem to fix, and profit from. Word processing and spreadsheets are equally broken, very few people actually know how to use Word or Excel to any meaningful proficiency.

I don't buy that email is broken, not anymore than other communication means at least. The clients may be too hard to use or too limited in functionality. The sad truth is that beyond a few walled of webmail solutions, like Gmail or Yahoo, development of email clients have stalled. Add to that companies that spend zero effort in education staff in using Outlook (because let's face it, we're talking about Outlook for the most part, when talking work emails).

IMO writing good filters can be pretty hard. I literally spent what must've been an entire hour on updating just 1 Gmail filter today. All going through my mailbox cross-checking to make sure it would mark exactly what was needed, no more, no less.

(It'd have been a lot easier if I was more tolerating of errors, but the entire reason I was updating it was to eliminate errors that had started getting annoying. And I'm guessing errors are one reason why some people don't use filters.)

Most people can get by with nothing more complex than "put all messages from this sender to folder X", or a few similar options. Heck, even MS Outlook makes this easy.

If Google makes this difficult, that's on them.

"Filter messages like this" is literally in their drop-down for precisely this...

Gmail filters a sh*t compared to what Sieve with regex is capable of.

Maybe for you, but the capabilities and mechanics of the filters is not where I run into trouble, and regexes would not make much difference. Gmail filters are already pretty darn good for my needs. Figuring out the correct conditions conceptually is the hard part.

OTOH, I'm told you can't apply Sieve filters retroactively? That sounds completely awful.

> Fix Email

Why does everyone keep being fixated at the idea that email is broken?

The only broken thing in email is Google and it's obscenely obscure and paranoid spam filtering.

Email has numerous issues, from default security (in flight and at rest), formats, workflows, privacy, retention, directories, routing, spam, and more.

The underlying protocols are well over 40 years old (RFCs 822, 821, 733, 630, 561, possibly others), and are showing their age. (https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc733)

In theory, email is universal and distributed, in practice it's very highly concentrated amongst a few major providers (Google's Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo, as of 2016 http://blog.shuttlecloud.com/the-most-popular-email-provider...). Google alone has a majority of US email addresses. Some see this as a problem. (https://mako.cc/copyrighteous/google-has-most-of-my-email-be...)

In practice, self-hosting email is problematic and presents risks to the administrator, their correspondents, and third parties through possibilities of spam and other abuse.

At the same time, the utility and practicality of email is rapidly declining. I've used email for well over three decades, and defended the basic protocols until recent years. I can do so no longer, and actively avoid email in general for numerous reasons, something that does not please me in the least.

Unfortunately, getting protocols and standards un-stuck is exceedingly difficult, not just in tech and comms, but generally, and for deep and systemic reasons. Greenfield domains with a small but collaborative community seem best disposed to developing standards -- that's not what we have presently in the online / digital world.

> The underlying protocols are well over 40 years old

old != broken

> In practice, self-hosting email is problematic and presents risks

Not more, than self hosting WordPress.... And it's really not that problematic to self host it. I'm very tired of always hearing how hard it is when all one needs to do is adding a few dns records for spf, dkim, dmarc and reverse dns, and it works.

> At the same time, the utility and practicality of email is rapidly declining.

Not as infrastructure, no. In personal communication, yes.

You are correct on some points, especially the power concentration. On other points we're over complicating email. We need to accept that it'll never be as "private" as some enthusiasts would like it to be, but it's a more than adequate for reliably exchanging information.

No, old does not necessisarily mean broken. But the assumptions, scale, and environment (particularly trustworthiness and safety) under which email was developed no longer match present reality.

I've hosted email for 40m+ users. It's nontrivial.

People keep declaring that email is broken and needs fixing.

But I use it everyday and it is one of the few things in the computerised side of my life that actually does work properly.

Mind you I almost never use web mail even though my main account is Hotmail and I have both Gmail and Yahoo accounts. I use Thunderbird on several machines, built in email client on my Lenovo tablet and the Gmail app on my Moto g5+. They all work.

So what is it that everyone wants to fix?

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